Move New York’s Primary Elections to June

Our men and women in the military risk their lives to protect our democracy. Unfortunately, if they live in New York, they are not being allowed to fully participate in our elections.

Our men and women in the military risk their lives to protect our democracy.  

Unfortunately, if they live in New York, they are not being allowed to fully participate in our elections.  

In New York, we mail out absentee ballots just weeks before the election, meaning that those in uniform overseas are hard pressed to review and return their ballot by Election Day.

Some help should be on the way. Brooklyn’s own Senator Charles Schumer led the successful effort to pass a new law that requires states to mail absentee ballots at least two months prior to an election. It is a commonsense law that guarantees the right of democratic engagement for all citizens – and especially those who put life and limb at risk. 

Fulfilling this requirement requires New York State to move the date of our primary elections, which are currently scheduled for September, to earlier in the year, most likely to June. Otherwise, there is not enough time after the primary for general election ballots to be printed and mailed two months in advance.

Sounds easy enough, right? It should be. Unfortunately New York State has failed to follow this law for the last two years, seeking an exception each time.

This needs to change.

Changing the primary date to June would not only benefit servicemen and women, but all of us. For our democracy to function, voters need the time to learn about candidates for elected office. An earlier primary date will give those running for elected office more time to make their case to the public before the general election and allow New Yorkers to weigh the issues before casting their ballots.  

An earlier primary date will also likely increase participation and voter engagement. We all know that between vacations and warm weather, it is harder to pay attention to political issues during the summer months. Our current early September elections come right after Labor Day, which means that peak campaigning time is when the fewest people are paying attention. Moving primaries to the spring would likely increase participation and improve our democracy.

New York needs to do right by its citizens in military service, and everyone else, by moving our primary elections to earlier in the year.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

tom murphy October 19, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Chris Owens October 19, 2011 at 05:36 PM
I have argued for years that the need for a September primary date has long passed. Back in the 1970s, one concern was low voter registration in non-white communities. Summer was a fruitful time to increase registration there. The real concern NOW is turnout. The September primary is not only underplayed due to the start of school and possible conflicts with religious holidays, it is now also overshadowed by the memory of the 2001 terrorist attacks -- which actually happened during a primary election. A June primary = - Incumbents must campaign on their record and on local budgets more than on their ability to spread largesse across block parties. - Voters will be more engaged during the run up to the election, instead of being distracted by vacations, heat waves or Labor Day festivities (old and new). - Volunteers and candidates alike will risk fewer heart attacks as they go door-to-door in more reasonable weather! :) - NYS Democrats will get their act together in citywide and statewide races in time to mount effective campaigns for the November General Election. - Politically active New Yorkers can devote time to critical electoral contests, both in NYS and in other states, rather than worrying about primary elections "back home". The election processes in NYS require additional reform, but a June primary election is a huge step in the right direction.


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