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Bill to consolidate primary elections in New York moves to the Senate

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A proposal to change New York’s primary election date to June has passed in the state Assembly.

It has met with support from several north country representatives, including Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, and Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River. State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, was traveling Tuesday and not available for comment, according to her spokeswoman, Sarah Compo.

Mrs. Russell is calling on county legislatures in the north country to support the legislation as it moves to the Senate.

The bill, A.8198, would move state and federal primaries to the same day — the fourth Tuesday in June.

Holding a single June primary would encourage voter participation, save taxpayers almost $50 million and ensure that military personnel have ample time to participate in our elections, according to Mrs. Russell.

“Holding multiple primaries is an unfunded mandate for localities across the state that is not only unnecessary, but harmful to the institution of voting,” Mrs. Russell said in a news release. “This is a situation in which county governments should get involved and let the Legislature know that they support this common sense solution.”

While state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said he is in favor of bringing the state and federal primaries in line, he does not support moving them to June, but rather to August.

“First and foremost, this would bring the state into compliance with federal requirements that ensure that Americans living or working abroad have enough time to vote... Our top priority should be to work collaboratively to produce an on-time budget. That will become difficult, if not impossible, if Assembly members and senators are back in their districts vying for endorsements, raising money and campaigning for a June primary,” Sen. Griffo said in an emailed statement.

According to the 2009 federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, absentee ballots must be in the hands of overseas military personnel 45 days prior to a general election.

New York’s current September primary date is not in compliance with this law because it falls too close to the deadline for sending ballots overseas.

The state was granted an exemption from the MOVE Act in 2010 but denied an exemption in 2012.

The Assembly’s bill would bring primaries for statewide offices in line with the act, Mrs. Russell said.

Calls to the Republican and Democratic Commissioners of the Jefferson County Board of Elections were not immediately returned Tuesday because the commissioners were out of the office at a conference.

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