By KATIE HOOS
Proposed legislation to combine federal and state primary election dates for the end of June is currently filed in the state Assembly. If approved, the bill will then move on to the Senate.
Introduced by State Asse-mbly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, on Oct. 21, the bill would move the current September state and local primaries to the fourth Tuesday in June, the same new date as the federal primary election. Supporters of the bill believe the benefits of the combined primaries are threefold: Military personnel and New Yorkers living abroad will have sufficient time to complete absentee ballots, the number of visits voters make to the polls will be reduced and estimates are taxpayers and governments will save $50 million annually.
According to the state Board of Elections, it costs an estimated $50 million to hold a general election and $25 to $35 million for a primary in New York.
Silver said, “Moving New York’s primary date to June is a common-sense solution that not only lifts an unnecessary financial burden off of both local municipalities and taxpayers, it also ensures that more New Yorkers have a chance to participate in the Election Day process.”
The bill would also bring New York in compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which requires states to send absentee ballots to voters overseas no later than 45 days before a general election. After the 2009 implementation of the MOVE Act, New York’s September primary was in direct violation of the law since it breached the 45-day deadline.
The state was granted a waiver from the law in 2010, but was denied a similar request in 2012, thus triggering action from the federal courts. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe ruled that the congressional primary be held on June 26, meaning voters registered with applicable parties had to visit the polls four times in 2012 to be heard as thoroughly as possible; the presidential primary was held on April 26, a federal primary on June 26, legislative and local primaries on Sept. 10, and the general election on Nov. 6.
Westchester County Repub-lican Election Commissioner Doug Colety estimated that the additional primary cost West-chester County $1 million.
In September, Rye City Coun-cilwoman Catherine Parker defeated Tom Murphy of Mamaroneck in a Democratic primary for the party’s nomination in the only major party primary in the area. Parker was seeking a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, which she eventually won after defeating Rep-ublican John Verni in the general election.
State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, supports the bill’s passage and indicated the $50 million includes the cost to open and operate each polling station in every district in the state. He said the costs include rental fees for the space where elections are held, paying election inspectors at each location and election promotional materials.
Latimer said Westchester County’s November election results reflect constituents’ desire for lower taxes. He said the bill is cost-efficient and properly spaces out the primary and general election dates.
“It makes sense at every level to get them both done in June,” he said.
And some area residents seemed apathetic either way.
Rye Brook resident, Wendy Mayer said she doesn’t typically vote in primary elections, but the June date wouldn’t impact her decision to go to the polls either way. “It’s not like I would or wouldn’t go,” Mayer, 43, said.
Deborah Tashoff, 50, said a June primary would not dissuade her from voting. “No one goes on vacation in June,” said the Hastings-on-Hudson resident. “Everyone goes in August anyway.”
Critics of the bill argue the June primary date is poor timing and would harm lawmakers’ ability to campaign since the election would fall at the end of the state’s legislative session. The June primary would mean those running for political office would have to collect petitions and organize campaigns in the winter.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos, a majority coalition leader, said previously, Sen. Skelos was opposed to moving the primary from September to June in 2012.
“In the past, that June primary date would disrupt the legislative business, much of which takes place between March and the end of June,” Reif said. “There’s a lot of budget activity leading up to that date.”
Reif added that Sen. Skelos has not recently discussed the issue of a June primary date with other members of the Republican conference.
Sen. Latimer said if a member of the Republican or Independent Democratic Con-ference were to sponsor the bill, it will most likely get pushed into law.
“It will need a majority coalition to carry the bill. I’m expressing my support and hoping that someone in the majority will pick it up and run with it in January,” he said.
The bill, which has several sponsors from state Assembly including Steve Otis, a Rye Democrat, currently lacks Senate sponsorship.
Legislator-elect Parker could not be reached for comment as of press time.