Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and other Republican officials condemned a bill aimed at holding certain elections throughout New York state in an even-numbered year, claiming it would “eliminate the voice of the suburbs.”
The Democratic-sponsored bill in the state Assembly and Senate would make elections in towns, villages and counties held on the first Tuesday in November in even-numbered years if passed. The legislation would not apply to the county clerk, district attorney, town justices and other justice-related elections with three-year terms.
Local elections in the state are now held on odd-numbered years.
Elections held throughout New York City, officials said, would not be affected by the proposed legislation.
Blakeman said the bill would force local candidates to compete with presidential and gubernatorial candidates when trying to discuss the pressing issues facing their respective municipalities.
“This is nothing more than a blatant attempt to centralize control of government in Albany,” Blakeman said at a press conference last week. “It is an attack against the suburbs, it is an attack against the rural counties and towns of this state and we stand here united to say we are not going to take this lying down.”
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said the bill is “a terrible idea” and that local issues would effectively be “buried” if the elections were held only during even-numbered years.
“It’s a last-ditch effort to control the outcome of future elections after striking out with a plan to illegally gerrymander our communities,” DeSena said. “If this really were about the voice of the people, it would be done the right way, by proposing a constitutional referendum that all the residents of the state of New York could weigh in on.”
A prominent state Republican criticized the bill as a power grab.
“New York Democrats are at it again, working to sneak through legislation that would illegally seize power and upend our entire election system in New York,” state Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy said in a statement. “They will stop at nothing to manipulate the system to rig themselves into total and permanent power.”
The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. James Skoufis of Newburgh and Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Westchester, claim that elections held in even-numbered years “will make the process less confusing for voters,” leading to greater turnout in local elections. Consolidating local elections would also provide fiscal savings to local municipalities, officials said.
“Studies have consistently shown that voter turnout is the highest on the November Election Day in even-numbered years when elections for state and/or federal offices are held,” according to the legislation.
Changes would also be made to how candidates are listed on the ballots, with the executive candidates being put first followed by candidates running for other federal jobs and then state offices. The size of the electorate would then determine the order of the remaining candidates.
If approved, the act would go into effect immediately, with the even-numbered election years taking place beginning Jan. 1, 2024.