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Goodell Proposes Change In State Primary Election Dates

Local politicians have not been a fan of earlier timetables to circulate petitions to meet earlier primary elections that began in 2019.

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, wants to change those dates while also meeting the guidance set forth by a federal judge in U.S. v. State of New York. The 2019 court case prompted the state to amend its Election Law to move the state and local primary from the second Tuesday in September to the third Thursday in June.

That meant politicians had to circulate petitions much earlier in the year, have nominating conventions much earlier in the year and then have primaries at a time that didn’t lend itself to high turnout.

While the state can’t go back to its September primary date, the state doesn’t have to hold its primary in June either.

“The federal court, however, was clear that the Legislature could select a different date, provided that the new primary date was at least 80 days before the general election,” Goodell wrote in his legislative justification.

The first election to be moved under Goodell’s proposal would be New York’s presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in April so that it corresponds to with several other state primaries. Then, the state would move its state and local primary elections from the third Thursday in June to the second Tuesday in August.

Goodell said the later primary date makes it hard for incumbent state legislators to participate in the primaries since the state legislative session is wrapping up at that time. Moving the primary would allow voters to see an incumbent’s entire voting record for the legislative session, Goodell said.

Moving the primary to August also means volunteers and candidates would be circulating nominating petitions in the spring and summer months rather than the late winter and make it easier for local elections boards to use schools as polling places.

Goodell’s final reason for proposing the bill is the state’s redistricting, which does not look to be wrapped up before the end of the year and is likely to be decided by the state Legislature and, possibly, face legal challenges. To have any impact, the legislature would have to consider Goodell’s legislation early in the session.

“Finally, a later primary date provides state and local legislatures more time during a re-apportionment year to develop and implement new redis-tricting maps,” Goodell wrote.

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