May 2, 2022

MEHLER | The Case for Moving New York State Primaries

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New York State currently holds its primaries on the last Tuesday of June. I believe moving the primary date would facilitate more civic participation among all age groups, demographics and New Yorkers.

New York State will be hosting its primary this year on June 28, 2022. While the primary has been held on the last Tuesday of June for decades, recent internal and external factors present a strong argument for moving our primaries earlier into the year. 

The deadline of a general election happening anywhere between Nov. 2 to Nov. 8 is the first factor to consider: how much time should candidates have to make their case to voters once securing a party nomination? Six months? two months? Almost a year? I believe we should move the New York State primary to the last Saturday of April.

Firstly, our primary elections should occur on a Saturday. Although our national elections occur on a Tuesday, with our primaries following suit, switching our primary elections to Saturday eases voter access for a host of reasons. First, the closure of public schools and places that host polling sites would be unnecessary. Second, moving voting to a weekend would allow those who work and provide childcare for their kids to not have to pick between one or the other when deciding when, or even if, to vote on Tuesdays. For students specifically, moving voting away from classes, jobs and extracurricular activities would make student voting much easier than in the current system.

While weekend voting is not a new argument, why should New York consider moving its primaries from June to April? While local county, city and town officials have separate meeting and budget schedules, the New York State Legislature’s calendar is uniform across the whole state. Using the Legislature as the model timetable for primaries, the Legislature’s budgetary season and legislative session need to be considered. The Legislature meets from January to the first week of June; next year’s budget is due April 1 of the year the Legislature meets. 

With these dates in mind, March is clearly the busiest time of year as the Legislature prepares and sets the budget, so avoiding a primary in March remains ideal. The current model places primaries after the legislative session ends, with a three week break between the two. However, placing the primary right after the budget, rather than after the session adjourns, gives more power to voters who can evaluate their representatives’ budget priorities and see if they align with their own. As President Biden has told us before: “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” While holding a primary only four weeks after the budget may seem rushed, the current model allows only three weeks from end of session to the primary.

Finally, a new external factor places New York in an excellent spot for moving up the primary. For the first time in decades, the Democratic National Committee has not promised Iowa and New Hampshire first dibs for the 2024 presidential primary. With a whooping 29 electoral votes, New York’s voice is loud in the presidential primary; moving us up in the list will force presidential hopefuls to visit our state and campaign harder to win such a large sum. An April election may even be too late, and if New York were considered to be towards the front of the list, moving our primary to as early as February might make sense.

Overall, moving New York’s primaries up would encourage more competitive elections in the state, elevate our position in presidential elections, and hold current politicians accountable to budgets that reflect the voters’ values. Changing how elections are managed will be a long and tedious process, but anything we can do as a state to make voting easier and make New Yorkers’ voices louder in elections will only better our democracy.

Patrick J. Mehler (he/him) is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Tuesday this semester.