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Hochul Urged To Sign Bill Shifting Some Local Elections to Even Numbered Years

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul
Credit: Governor Hochul's Office

Hochul Urged To Sign Bill Shifting Some Local Elections to Even Numbered Years

Advocates for a bill to shift some local elections in New York, normally held in odd numbered years, to even numbered ones, are urging Governor Kathy Hochul to sign it.

Senate sponsor James Skoufis says the bill would increase voter turn out and save money because it would consolidate many local elections, normally held in odd numbered years and that generate low voter turn out, into even years. That’s when statewide races, including for governor, and presidential races are held. He says the recently held local elections, held earlier in November, are an example.

“You have 20 30% of the electorate making decisions for the entire community,” Skoufis said, in an interview. “In those very same municipalities, you have, in some cases, 70 80% of people who turn out in some of the even numbered cycles.”

Skoufis says the aim of the legislation is to try to leverage that already high turnout in the even years.

“And give more people the opportunity to weigh in on who's running their local town and who's running their local county,” he said.

Senator Skoufis held a news conference, attended by government reform advocates, including Susan Lerner of Common Cause. Lerner says the state holds so many elections on various dates throughout the year, including village elections in March, and school budgets in May, as well as June primaries, that voters can become confused and weary.

“New York State, there's a concept called voter fatigue,” Lerner said. “And unfortunately, we are fatiguing our voters.”

Opponents include some republicans, including North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, and the New York Association of Counites. They say if local races are held when high profile contests for governor and President are run, then local candidate’s voices could get lost in the mix.

 Skoufis and other supporters argue that the higher turn out in even years will give more attention to local candidates for office.

Governor Hochul has not yet said whether she will sign the measure. A spokesman, Avi Small would only say that the governor is “reviewing the legislation”.

In June, Hochul was asked about the measure, and she said that she agreed with the concept.

“If you're talking about turnout, I would say having the year when there's more people turning out for either a presidential or gubernatorial race, it increases turnout,” Hochul said on June 7th.  And more people voting in these elections is always better for democracy.”

 Hochul said at the time that she hadn’t had a chance to look  at the details.

The bill does not include all local elections. Some, like county sheriff, district attorney and city elections, are required by the New York State constitution to be held in odd numbered years. Senator Skoufis says if the measure becomes law, he’s already drafted a constitutional amendment to allow the rest of the races to also be held in even numbered years.