Bill to make local elections on even-numbered years fails to pass state Legislature

Bill to make local elections on even-numbered years fails to pass state Legislature
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and other Republican officials condemned legislation aimed at changing the dates of local elections, which did not pass the Legislature. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

A proposed bill that would have shifted local elections throughout New York to even-numbered years failed to be voted out of committee after state and Nassau County Republicans objected, claiming it would stifle the voice of suburban voters.

Democratic state Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a sponsor of the bill, told Spectrum News last week that she was advocating conducting hearings to air the concerns of those who claim the legislation would have negative impacts on the local level.

Officials said the bill remained in the Senate’s and Assembly’s Election Law Committees and was not brought to either floor for a vote. Unless a special session was called, the proposed legislation would not be addressed until the Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 4, 2023.

The proposed legislation would have scheduled elections in towns, villages and counties on the first Tuesday in November in even-numbered years. The measure would not have applied to the county clerk, district attorney, town justices and other justice-related posts with three-year terms.

Local elections in the state are currently held on both even and odd-numbered years. Elections held throughout New York City, officials said, would not have been affected by the proposed legislation.

Nassau County Executive Bruce 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 recent news conference. “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.”

The legislation said that elections held in even-numbered years would “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.

Changes would have also been made to how candidates are listed on the ballots, with the executive candidates put first followed by candidates running for other federal jobs and then state offices. The size of the electorate would have determined the order of the remaining candidates.

More than 723,000 votes were cast throughout Nassau County in the 2020 presidential election. Nassau’s 2021 county executive election, which Blakeman won, saw more than 283,000 votes cast.

“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.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said the bill was “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.”

The act would have gone into effect immediately, with the even-numbered election years taking place beginning Jan. 1, 2024. Democratic state Sen. James Skoufis, the bill’s other sponsor, told that the bill has been introduced in the Senate each year for nearly a decade. Its sponsorship in the Assembly, he said, was an attempt to increase voter participation following the 2020 presidential race.

Efforts to reach Paulin or Skoufis for further comment were unavailing.

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