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The original item was published from 6/9/2023 12:06:36 AM to 7/9/2023 12:00:01 AM.

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News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: June 9, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Albany to vote to change town elections to Presidential years--bad for local democracy

Voters tend to vote the straight party ticket in Presidential election years --will make races less competitive, give voters less influence

The New York State Assembly is scheduled to vote on Friday on a bill hat would move town elections to even election years (Presidential and races for Governor).  Currently, town elections are held in off years -voters only vote for local races.


This proposed bill was not discussed with Westchester town officials prior to introduction. I just found out about it late Thursday afternoon from other Town Supervisors who also heard about this bill at the last minute.  No public discussion on an issue that is of great importance to local residents. And should be debated. This is bad for democracy. During Presidential elections many voters who are not interested in local politics vote. They usually vote the straight ticket.  Many voters don't pay attention to the election campaigns down on the ballot.


During the more important election years many students who are out of town in college vote absentee. They are registered in the municipalities they grew up in but really are living out of town. They will also be voting in local elections  even though they are not interested in local issues.


Another reason why this law is so bad is because it will make government less responsive to the community. Currently, if a town official is not responsive to a neighborhood request - the neighborhood can organize and be heard. If elections for town offices are held in a Presidential year it will be much easier for local officials to ignore the will of the people. Because - many of the people who come out to vote won't be familiar with the local issues and controversies.  It will be easier for developers and special interests to get what they want because the activists won't have as much influence on election day.


A third reason why this legislation is bad is that fewer people will vote in county elections. In the past competitive local elections encouraged people to also vote in county wide elections. The change does not impact county races. 


The legislation bill number is A 04282. One suggestion: If the state wants to pursue this idea provide local governments with the option of holding their elections in Presidential  or Governor election years instead of in odd election years when the focus of an election would be on town issues.


PAUL FEINER

Greenburgh Town Supervisor

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