The New York State Senate today passed a series of election reform bills increasing voter participation and education, while also saving county taxpayers an estimated $25 million on primary elections. The bills would consolidate state and Congressional primary elections to one date in August, assist local election officials in recruiting poll inspectors to help ensure election day activities run smoothly, and increase information available to voters about candidates, among other measures.
Consolidating State and Congressional Primaries:
The Senate passed a bill that creates one August primary date for state and Congressional races - saving taxpayers at least $25 million and bringing the state into compliance with federal election requirements for overseas balloting. Bill S1115, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar (R-C-I-Ref, Colesville), designates the third Tuesday in August as the date to merge the current federal non-presidential primary held in June and the state primary held in September.
Senator Akshar, Chairman of the Senate’s Elections Committee, said, “Having the right to vote and having access to vote are very different, and we want to make sure that everyone who has the right to vote has the capability and access to vote as well. These reforms not only cut costs to save taxpayers money, they ensure that our men and women serving in the military have their vote counted.”
An August primary election date also ensures that military personnel and New Yorkers living abroad have an opportunity to vote and have their votes counted. Currently, New York State’s September primary is not compliant with the 45-day Military Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act that requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to military and overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal election.
At least 14 other states held state and/or Congressional primaries in August last year. Setting a date for these elections earlier in the year would interfere with the state budget and end-of-session state legislative work that takes place, making it more difficult for current elected officials to perform their legislative responsibilities in Albany.
Other election reform measures passed today include:
- · Recruiting Election Inspectors: Bill S443A, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young (R-C-I, 57th District) would help with the recruitment of election inspectors by enabling counties to split the election workday into shifts. During most elections, polls are open for an average of 16 hours and election workers are not only required to work during polling hours, but the additional time required to prep and close down polling sites;· Removing the election notification requirement to publish the residence of a candidate seeking office: Bill S2786, sponsored by Senator Akshar, would help save publishing costs by reforming a measure originally put in place to ensure voters could distinguish between two candidates with the same name. Other measures in the state’s election law would prevent any potential confusion should such a situation occur; and
- · Voter access to candidate websites: Bill S1567A, sponsored by Senator Tony Avella (D, Bayside), would provide a gateway for voters to find candidate information more easily by identifying a website designated by a candidate. Candidates for the governor, lieutenant governor, state comptroller, attorney general, state senate and assembly would be able to notify the state Board of Elections (BOE) about their campaign website and BOE would then publish the sites on their website.
The bills have been sent to the Assembly.