Hochul signs bill aligning local elections with statewide races

| 26 Dec 2023 | 10:02

New York’s governor has signed into law a bill changing the state’s election calendar so that more local elections are timed with statewide races.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the legislation signed Friday will help boost voter turnout by moving many local county and town elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, which is when statewide and legislative races are held.

The law doesn`t affect elections not under the state legislature`s oversight, which includes judicial races and elections for New York City offices.

But Hochul, a Democrat, said she also supports changing those elections through a state constitutional amendment.

“Every eligible New Yorker deserves the right to participate in the democratic process without unnecessary barriers,” she said in a statement.

Voting rights groups said the new law, which takes effect in 2025, will help save taxpayer dollars and prevent voter fatigue by avoiding the need for holding elections every year. It will also lead to increased voter turnout among communities of color, they said.

“This bill will bring more voters into the political process, including young voters and voters of color, and avoid extremely low turnout and unrepresentative results in local elections,” Sam Oliker-Friedland, executive director of the Institute for Responsive Government, said in a statement.

But Republicans complain the new law tips the scales in favor of the Democratic Party that controls the state.

Local election officials, including the New York State Association of Counties, argued local races would get lost amid higher-profile state and federal contests on the ballot.

The bill, Senate Bill S3505B, was sponsored by State Sen. James Skoufis (D-42). Its full text can be found at the following website: bit.ly/3GXHzXK.