EDITORIAL: Voters get more time to register for primaries

October deadline for next year's primaries excluded many voters

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

What will you be thinking about on October 11th?

Maybe Halloween or apple picking or checking out the fall foliage? Or perhaps just, oh, everything else in your life.

We hazard to guess that it wouldn’t be making sure you were registered in a political party so you could participate in the primaries next April and June.

Well, go ahead. Pick some apples. Carve that pumpkin.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed legislation (A8228B/S6532B) that moves the date for amending or adding a political affiliation to one’s voter registration to Feb. 14, when voters are more likely to be paying closer attention to the races for president and other offices.

Until now, if registered voters wanted to change their party affiliation so they could in one of New York’s primaries, they had to do it at least six months ahead of the next primary election or be shut out.

Since many of us don’t have political calendars posted on our refrigerators, many people who wanted to vote in a primary realized too late that they were ineligible because the deadline had long passed.

This legislation corrects a wrong by setting a more reasonable date for changing one’s party affiliation.

Well, one might say, why not allow people to change their party affiliation right up until the date of the primary? 

There are good reasons for not doing that. If the state sets the change date too close to the primary, it would invite and encourage non-members of a party to register in a particular party and try to sabotage the vote, either by voting for the worst candidate to run against their favored general election candidate or by artificially inflating the vote count in a primary to boost a candidate they want.

Another reason: Allowing voters to switch parties during the period when candidates are collecting petition signatures from enrolled party voters in order to qualify for the ballot would make it difficult for boards of elections to validate petition signatures.

So there needs to be some reasonable period of time between when people can legally change or add a party affiliation and the date of the actual primary.

There’s that word “reasonable” again.

It’s not reasonable to expect people to be thinking about their party enrollment six or eight months ahead of an election. 

Too many people simply aren’t paying attention then. By moving the change date to mid-February, voters now have a reasonable amount of time before a primary to alter their registration status, and the integrity of the nomination and petition process is protected.

This is a welcome and long-overdue change toward improving voter access to the ballot in New York.

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