March 15, 2012

Silver, Cusick Bill Moving State Primary Election
To June 26 Approved by Assembly

Legislation Encourages Voter Turnout by Combining State Primary with Court Ordered Congressional Primary Date, Rescues Local Governments and Taxpayers From a $50 Million Unfunded State Mandate-the Estimated Cost of Holding a Third Primary Election in 2012

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Election Law Chair Michael Cusick today announced the passage of legislation establishing New York's state and federal primary election date as the fourth Tuesday of June, thereby ensuring the state's compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

The Assembly's approval of the bill (A.9271-B) comes on the heels of a recent court ruling setting the state's non-presidential federal primary for June 26.

"At a time when local governments are looking to reduce expenses and find ways to save taxpayers money it would be indefensible for the state to force localities to incur the $50 million cost of unnecessarily holding a third primary election in 2012," said Silver. "The burden of this unfunded mandate could easily be avoided by simply holding the state primaries on the same day. The June state primary worked for New York's residents prior to 1974, and it can and will work again."

By setting the fourth Tuesday in June as the date for state and federal primaries, voters will be spared from having to go to the polls four times, including for New York's presidential primary on April 24. This legislation would eliminate a separate state primary and save the local governments the approximately $50 million it costs to administer primary elections across the state.

"Asking people to report to the polls for three primaries plus the general election could drive down voter interest, lowering voter turnout in 2012 and undermining the critical role elections play in our democracy. The only practical solution is to hold the state primary on Tuesday, June 26, the same date as the federal primary," Cusick said.

In accordance with the MOVE Act, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe set June 26, 2012, as the New York primary date for federal offices only. The act accommodates citizens serving in the military and others living abroad, by requiring that absentee ballots be mailed to these voters 45 days before a federal election. State elections are not subject to the provisions of the MOVE Act.

The Silver-Cusick bill, which mirrors the changes ordered by the court for federal offices, compresses time frames in the New York 2012 political calendar, and it addresses other areas of the election law.

The bill reflects the time limitations of a shortened political calendar by:

The first Tuesday after the second Monday in September, has been the state primary date since 1974, prior to that primaries were held in June.

Since the MOVE Act was signed into law in 2009, New York's primary election date was not in compliance with federal law as it was too close to the deadline for transmitting military and overseas absentee ballots. New York was granted a waiver from MOVE Act compliance in 2010, however, a similar request was denied for 2012.