Saratoga County

Heading to polls may be no easy effort

Voter confusion is expected at the polls today in some contentious state Legislature primary electio

Voter confusion is expected at the polls today in some contentious state Legislature primary elections, as this spring’s redistricting has shaken up the legislative landscape in the Capital Region.

Some voters may turn up at polling places because there is a primary in their former Assembly or Senate district. There is also the possibility voters might sit out competitive primaries because they’re unaware of their new district.

Problems could arise in the Republican and Conservative primaries in the 43rd Senate District, Democratic primaries in the 44th and 46th Senate districts and the Democratic, Independence and Working Families primaries in the 110th Assembly District.

Amy Standaert, a Republican election inspection coordinator for the town of Clifton Park, said her dealings with voters and other inspectors indicates not everyone in Saratoga County is aware of how redistricting affected the boundaries of the 43rd District, where the big attraction is a battle for the Republican nomination between incumbent Roy McDonald and Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione.

Because of redistricting, the district added the towns of Greenfield and Wilton in Saratoga County, while the towns of Malta, Clifton Park and Milton were shed.

“I’m afraid there will be some upset voters,” Standaert said. “I just got a call [Wednesday] morning from an inspector who was caught off-guard.”

Part of the problem, she said, is the county’s Board of Elections only notifies people about the primary date and not whether they’re actually eligible to vote in primaries.

Saratoga County Board of Elections Commissioner William Fruci said his office has been fielding eligibility calls, but predicted most problems won’t be detected until today, and issues would probably arise in the general election, too.

“It takes a little time for people to get adjusted to the new lines,” Fruci said. “I would imagine that all day long we will be fielding calls.”

The other potential problem in Saratoga County is with Democrats in Clifton Park and Halfmoon, who might show up to the polls expecting to participate in the Democratic primary to replace Assemblyman Bob Reilly. His district has been redrawn, dropping Clifton Park and Halfmoon in exchange for Niskayuna and part of Schenectady.

Schenectady County Board of Elections Commissioner Brian Quail said his office hasn’t received many questions about today’s elections, but thought that made sense.

“They’re not going to prospectively call,” he said.

In the city of Schenectady, there have been some problems during past general elections about which Assembly district voters were participating in because the city is split between two districts. In the special 20th Congressional District race in the Capital Region in 2009, Quail said, some voters in Schenectady County turned up to vote because they were represented by candidate James Tedisco in the Assembly, even though the county wasn’t involved in the congressional race.

There is a possibility Democratic voters in Schenectady County might not be aware of the primaries they could be eligible to vote in today, but most political observers are assuming the individual campaigns have done enough outreach to let voters know they could be voting.

In Albany County, it will be a bit of a different surprise for Democratic primary voters, who might expect they’re taking part in the high profile 44th Senate race, where incumbent Neil Breslin is being challenged by Albany County Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse. This district had previously included the entire county, but because of redistricting, only the northeast corner will get to choose between Breslin and Morse.

The rest of the Democrats in the county will be voting in the Democratic primary for the 46th Senate District. The 46th Senate District is a new, open seat, added this year as the 63rd seat in the Senate and stretching from Montgomery County to Ulster County.

Aside from redistricting, there is also some confusion stemming from the fact that this will be the third primary election in New York this year. There was a presidential primary in the spring and federal primaries this summer.

New York’s closed primary system will also draw some ineligible voters to the polls today, Fruci said. State rules only allow a voter to participate in a primary of the party they are enrolled in, but sometimes high profile races attract voters of different parties.

There have been efforts to educate voters, with numerous news reports, information on local board of elections websites and outreach by the candidates. At some point, though, Standaert said, voters need to take some responsibility as citizens and figure out where and when they’re voting.

“There’s only so much hand-holding we can do,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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