Debate over NY primary date not typical politics

May 30, 2017

New York lawmakers want fewer elections. They say they can save millions of dollars by consolidating primaries for state and federal offices into one day, but they cannot agree on when that day should be.

Both legislative chambers have passed bills to consolidate the primaries. Democrats in the Assembly want to hold the elections in June. Senate Republicans want August. 

These primaries would be for all state and federal offices, except the presidency. So you would vote on your party’s state senate candidate the same day you’d pick a candidate for the U.S. Congress. 

The differences might not be about typical party politics, according to Jim Battista, a professor at the University at Buffalo.

“If there are strong reasons, they’re probably not much to do with partisanship and probably more to do with the cost of legislating in each chamber," Battista said.

That cost of legislating is greater for Republicans in the Senate. They have a majority in that chamber, but only because a group of independent Democrats caucus with them. That means they need to make concessions to get bills passed.

If the primary is moved to June, right after the session, the party would not have long to focus on just campaigning. That is not as much of an issue in the Assembly, where Democrats have a super majority. 

“So they just don’t have as much fussy work to do putting together a coalition that will get 50 percent plus one of the chamber," Battista said, adding that he does not think either party is picking a date that get an advantage with the voters.

“That’s an awful stretch," Battista argued. "Primary electorates are self-selected and highly motivated enough that it’s hard to imagine anything making more than absolutely incidental difference.”

Legislative estimates show the state could have have saved $25 million last year if it consolidated its primaries. The senate bill was introduced by Southern Tier Senator Fred Akshar.