Following one of the more robust debates of the year, the state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would consolidate state and federal primaries to a single date in August. The bill, designed to follow federal mandates for getting out overseas absentee ballots, sparked debate over more than just New Yorkers’ voting habits and saving tens of millions of dollars on costly separate elections. It also hit on when people take their summer vacations, the need to stop “playing tiddlywinks” and pass legislation that ensures military personnel the right to vote, and whether time allows for lawmakers to campaign during the legislative session. It also featured the unusual move by a senator to stop yielding the floor for another senator to continue his line of questioning about the bill.
The bickering arose because Senate Democrats support legislation that would move the state primary date to June, matching it up with the recent trend for federal primary dates. Such legislation was approved by the Assembly a month ago.
The reason the issue is on the table is because of a 2012 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe requiring the state to set federal primaries for the fourth Tuesday in June. That came after the state received a waiver in 2010 that allowed it to keep the federal primary in September despite the 2009 passage of the federal MOVE Act requiring states to provide absentee ballots to military and overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal general election.
Yet Sharpe’s decision did nothing with the state primary date, setting up what appears to be the only split primaries for federal and state and local offices in the country.