NYS' newly approved election changes begin tomorrow

Jun 24, 2019

Tuesday is Primary Election Day, when New York's new electoral process approved in Albany kicks in.

Tuesday's election reflects a decision in Albany to move the primary vote from September to the spring, to consolidate elections and save some money. This means state and federal primaries will be in the spring. There will be a presidential primary in April 2020 to let politicians have a say in the nominating process.

Political activists across the state know about the changes, since they were out in February getting signatures on petitions to put people on the ballot. The weather was a lot warmer when primary elections were in September and the campaign ran through the heat of summer into Labor Day.

Tuesday will be pretty much an old-fashioned primary election. As the year goes along, more and more of the new election provisions will start kicking in, from early voting to new computer registration systems for use in the polling places.

"Early voting takes effect in the general election, not for the primary," said Erie County Democratic Election Commissioner Jeremy Zellner. "The no-excuse absentee, which was passed this year, doesn't take effect until there's a state-wide referendum. This year's primary was changed to June 25 instead of September."

The use of electronic poll books - essentially, laptops keeping track of who is registered to vote and who shows up - kick in later this year. There are privacy and security concerns about the poll book and concerns the state Board of Elections will be slow to approve the companies involved. If you have 600,000 registered voters like Erie County, there is a lot of data to manage and secure.

Erie County's Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said those portable systems have to be secure.

"The entire premise of this election program on making sure that we're off-line, that we're not accessible to the Internet and that people can't have easy access to hack us," Mohr said. "Now, with the early voting, we have the concerns of voters showing up at one polling place and then popping around to all 37, all eight days and voting multiple times. Well, that can't happen."

Mohr explained that there has to be a secure communications system between those portable registration terminals in the 328 polling places and that is not in place yet. Actual voter registration information is on a computer system which is off-line.