Moving Primaries Costs Voters Worthy Candidates

The state Legislature should reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to consolidate presidential, state, local and congressional primaries on April 28.

State officials already threw local politics into upheaval earlier this year by consolidating the primaries into June compared to the previous September primaries. That move meant local political calendars had to begin much earlier in the year so that petitions and opportunities to ballot could be set in time for the earlier primary. The one-time switch, while painful, made some sense because turnout was likely to be higher if all of the primaries were held on the same day while a consolidated primary saves tens of thousands of dollars locally.

Now, though, a presidential primary is causing the governor to push for another monkey wrench to be thrown into the local election process. Cuomo’s concern for saving money is laudable and noteworthy, but an April 28 primary doesn’t seem workable especially if the state Legisalture doesn’t act until sometime in January. If such a change is to be made, the state Legislature should act in a special session in November or December so that local political party officials can create yet another political calendar. Since the legislature couldn’t be bothered to return to session last year to approve its own pay raise, it’s unlikely legislators will return to session to consolidate the state’s primary date.

The idea is bad policy too.

One of the criticisms of moving local primaries from September to June was that it made candidates make decisions about running for office far too early. It comes as no surprise that in Jamestown, candidates who wanted to run for City Council during the winter and early spring were forced to withdraw from the race when life circumstances changed and forced them to move outside the city. Such empty spots on the ballot are considerably more likely if the local political calendar is moved much earlier. Even worse, the early calendar likely deprived voters of candidates who simply couldn’t commit to run for office so early in the year.

Moving the primary to April is far from simply a political inconvenience, as Cuomo said recently. Trying to set local and state races so early in the year costs voters worthy candidates — something that is already in short supply.


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