Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

February 17, 2014

CONFER: Move New York's primaries to June

Niagara Gazette — In 2009, the federal government passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which mandated that the states have federal absentee ballots in the hands of overseas military personnel at least 45 days before an election, to ensure that their completed ballots could be received by local boards of elections in a timely fashion. This is meant to guarantee that the warriors’ voices are heard while they are off protecting those same rights for others. 

The MOVE Act has had an impact on primary elections nationwide, because states that had theirs in the fall – like New York with its second-Tuesday-after-Labor-Day date – could not meet federal standards. Once the outcomes of the primaries were known, the official regular election ballots would physically have to be in the hands of military personnel by the third week of September. Impossible.

In 2010, since state officials couldn’t get their act together to accommodate this rather simple and well-intentioned law, New York, along with four other states, was granted a waiver by the Department of Defense and held its federal primaries in September.

The feds weren’t so kind in 2012, when a federal judge stepped in and mandated a June federal primary in the Empire State. Because of the legislative impasse that led to that, New York voters participated in two primaries, one in June for federal elections and another in September for local and state elections. The exhausted voters then had to vote for the real deal in November.

Five years after the passage of the MOVE Act, we seem to be no further ahead. Because of the intent of the law (to allow access to the polls to our servicemen and women) and the cost (the bill for the extra primary was $50 million to New York taxpayers), Democratic leaders in the Assembly passed a bill earlier this year that would create a harmonized primary date, whereby state and local primaries would be held on the same June date as the federal primaries – the fourth Tuesday in June. That’s a logical premise, philosophically and fiscally sound.

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