Watchdog Groups Endorse June Primary
Capital Tonight – A coalition of government watchdog and voting rights groups signed onto a letter endorsing June primary in order for the state to comply with the federal MOVE Act.
In the Oct. 31 letter to U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe, the groups write that the June primary, opposed by Senate Republicans, is the best way to ensure that military and overseas ballots are sent out in a timely fashion.
“New York’s current September primary date virtually guarantees that such an opportunity is denied to many since September primary elections are rarely certified, ballots sent out more than several weeks before the General Election. This makes it a near impossibility for many such ballots to be delivered and returned in time for the election by many overseas voters, including military personnel.”
The groups singing on to the letter include the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Brennan Center at NYU, Common Cause, Vocal-NY, NYPIRG, among others.
New York has been out of compliance with the federal law requiring states to send out overseas ballots at least 45 days before an election. All 212 seats in the Legislature are up for re-election next year.
The Justice Department wants the state to hold a primary no later than August in 2012 – a full month earlier than when the primaries are traditionally held. Party primaries in New York are usually held in September on the second Tuesday.
The bipartisan Election Commissioners Association have also backed a June primary, raising concerns in a letter to Sharpe that an August date would hindered the availability of poll workers.
Senate Republicans are backing an August primary, saying that a June date would cause a major headache in the Legislature, when the session is typically wrapped up, often into the late hours of the night. In a filing this month, the GOP majority said negotiations on the primary date have broken down.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he hoped some sort of compromise can be reached on the primary date.
But good-government groups like Common Cause (which also signed onto the Oct. 31 letter) say August is a “dead zone” for democracy because of vacations.
Lawyers for the state filed a brief late Monday to push for more time in complying with the federal law.
And as The Daily News reported this week, the dispute could lead to three primaries in 2012 – one for presidential elections, one for state lawmakers and other for House seats. That has the potential to cost the state up a little less than $50 million per primary.
Image: Denise Cross/Flickr