New York needs to review voting dates
It’s no secret that New York usually ranks close to the bottom when it comes to voter turnout — and the numbers are particularly abysmal for primaries and elections held when there is no presidential race on the ballot.
So brace yourselves: Things are bound to get even more confusing during the September primary, even though New York lawmakers have had a slew of opportunities and options to prevent more problems. This year, the state primary is not going to be held on a Tuesday as usual but on a Thursday — Sept. 13 specifically. There are reasons for the switch. The Tuesday of the first full week after the Labor Day holiday is Sept. 11, which marks the anniversary of the terrorist attacks and also falls on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
So, out of deference, lawmakers decided to move the primary to that following Thursday. Yet lawmakers could have done something more profound and sensible, such as moving the primary back to align it with the federal one held in June. Holding both primaries in June would have saved taxpayers at least $25 million in election costs. It also would have given the winners of those contests more time to prepare and campaign for the November general elections. New York has held primaries in September for the last 40 years or so, but the federal government interceded at one point, saying the congressional contests should be held earlier. Federal officials have cited the lack of time between the September date and the November elections for absentee ballots — particularly overseas military ballots — to be mailed and returned. As is, New York allows absentee ballots only in certain instances, such as being in the military, not because voting might present a hardship on that day due to work or family or other considerations.
In this day and age, voting shouldn’t be this difficult. For instance, New York is one of only 13 states where people cannot vote early. Expanding this right would make it easier for people with work or school obligations to make it to the polling booths. Over the years, good-government groups and other reform-minded organizations have offered many solutions to increase voter turnout, and New York has ignored them all. Those suggested changes run the gamut from allowing early voting and same-day registration, to lengthening registration deadlines and making it possible for people to update their information electronically.
Instead, the state relies on an archaic system and, this year, throws into the mix the move from the traditional Tuesday vote to one on a Thursday for the primary. This likely won’t help matters. The push for more enlightened policies in the future must continue.
The Poughkeepsie Journal