By William Lewis
With the 2014 New York state legislative session about to begin, the issue of moving the state political party primary from September to June will be one of the important matters considered by our state Legislature.
The major reasons for the change at this time is that with an earlier primary it will help give our military personnel stationed in foreign countries more of an opportunity to cast their ballots in primary elections. In recent years there has been more interest in encouraging members of our military to vote in all elections.
In addition to increasing military participation in the electoral process, there are other significant reasons for having a June primary. First, as things stand now, the primary election can be said to start in January and run until September, a period of more than eight months. The fall general election is only about eight weeks.
Any candidate winning the primary will not have enough time to prepare for the general election. If a June primary is decided on, it will give roughly the same amount of time to the primary and fall general elections.
We had a June primary up until the 1970s, when a September primary was adopted. It has been with us ever since. There seems to be increasing support for returning to the former system.
By having a June primary, it would lead to scheduling the distributing of petitions in April and May rather than in June and early July, during the period of intense hot weather. It seems that more registered voters would participate in the system, including circulating and signing petitions, to get candidates on the ballot.
In June and July, there has been less interest in politics than in other months. In June a higher number of voters are not home or are involved in family matters such as graduations, weddings, anniversary parties and vacations. They do not have time for politics as in other times of the year.
For our electoral democracy to work effectively, it needs to be implemented in such a way as to encourage maximum participation.
The increasingly low voter turnout, including the recent mayoral campaign, would indicate that changes need to be made in how the voting system is done. We have made changes in state voting by replacing voting machines and changes in registration.
Now in New York state we need election reform in voting scheduling.
Hopefully, this effort can be bipartisan and the primary date change can be made by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.
We have waited a long time for this change. Now is the time.
It could also encourage more candidates to come forth and run for public office or political party positions such as district leaders or members of the county committees.
This year will be a long year politically, as the emphasis will be on state government with all seats for state Senate and state Assembly up for election. The governor and other statewide races will be of particular interest.
Here in Queens, the Democratic Party will be attempting to hold on to the congressional, Senate and Assembly seats it has.
The Republicans hold one elective office in Queens at this time, a City Council seat. They will be trying to regain legislative seats especially in the Senate.
After 20 years of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, we have a new Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio. All three of them have different ideas as to how our city government should be run. It will be an interesting comparison.