Political Parties Can't Agree on One Primary Date

The Associated Press

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Republicans in the state Senate have filed a bill to move New York's primary day to late August, highlighting a lingering impasse with Assembly Democrats.

New York's current September primary for state offices is effectively too late to comply with a federal law that requires ballots for military and overseas voters to be sent out at least 45 days before the general election. With elections looming this year, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have yet to agree on a single state and federal primary date.

Democrats in charge of the Assembly last month passed a bill that would move state primaries to the fourth Tuesday in June, coinciding with New York's federal primary date. The new Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Thomas O'Mara, elections committee chairman, would move primaries for federal and state office in New York to the third Tuesday in August.

O'Mara said Monday that a June primary would disrupt the end of the legislative session and lengthen an already long election season by forcing candidates to gather petitions in March. Democrats argue that August is a popular vacation month and too few voters would show up at the polls.

If lawmakers fail to agree on a primary date, municipalities would have to do what they did in 2012: hold a primary for federal offices in June and a separate primary for state offices in September. Lawmakers say the cost of holding two primaries runs from $40 million to $50 million statewide.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said dual primaries not only cost too much, but also complicate primary voting.

"The taxpayer is footing the tab," Lerner said, "as well as the fact that it frankly depresses already low turnout when voters are confused."

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