One of the first priorities in the new legislative session for Democrats is to move New York State’s Primary date from September to June. According to Assembly Election Law Committee Chairman Michael Cusick ( D-Staten Island ), it will be one of the first bills reported out of committee.
There is not a ton of time to play with here. If the Primary were moved to June in time for legislative elections in 2014, petitions would need to go out in February. That gives the legislature just about a month to get the bill passed by both houses and signed into law. And Governor Cuomo has not displayed a ton of enthusiasm one way or the other, telling reporters last month,
“That’s between the senate and the Assembly. I haven’t really weighed in on that.”
Well, if there is any lesson to be learned here it’s that passing legislation quickly always produces the intended result, right? I mean, just see last year’s SAFE Act ( I’m kidding ). But the Primary change bill is different because it already passed the Assembly once, only to stall in the Senate. So, what’s different this time? Not much, actually. Except maybe a greater emphasis on the economic benefits with supporters such as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver saying through press release last month that the bill would save New York State $50 million per year.
There are other arguments in favor as well. As of now New York State is not in compliance with MOVE, the federal law sponsored by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer that requires states to give troops stationed overseas enough time to vote. The lack of compliance prompted a judge to move New York’s Primary to June in 2012 which meant New Yorkers went to the polls four separate times that year. Election law attorney Jerry Goldfeder says that might have depressed turnout,
“It confused the process in 2012 because people went to the polls for the presidential primary, the federal primary, the state primary and the general election.”
The Democratic legislation would align the state primary with the federal one on the fourth Tuesday in June. Makes sense, right?
Sure, but what about the very people this affects who are seeking re-election? So far, Republicans in the Senate say they have not discussed this issue, but like I said, the same arguments they made last session still Apply. That final week in June is often a busy one up in Albany. Just this year We didn’t have an answer about some critical pieces of legislation until those final days. But forget even the big stuff…what about all those minor bills which get passed in a marathon session? It seems likely that if a lawmaker is in anything resembling a tight race, he or she is going to prioritize being home campaigning in the district over casting votes in Albany. After all, if they lose the seat, they will not be voting for anything anytime soon.
In response to this argument, Cusick says,
“We can work things out up here schedule-wise, I’m sure when it comes to session and when we are in session for the mechanics of getting signatures and getting petitions done and all of that. We can work around that.”
That may all be true, but If this were to apply to 2014, a deal would need to be made soon. At some point there needs to be a conversation about adjusting the legislative session and reassessing whether it should continue to be a part time job. somehow I doubt that will be now. That’s fine, we can just tell legislators they are allowed to have other jobs, then demand to know their income through subpoenas.
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