EDITORIAL: State should pay for second primary

There are only two reasons for Democrats in state government to insist on holding two state primaries this year instead of one:

They want to discourage voter turnout and they want to impose an unfunded state mandate on local taxpayers.

Those are the only reasons we can think of that make any sense.

Doesn’t exactly seem like a sound electoral strategy, does it.

Yet that’s what the plan is to deal with the issues caused by the creation of illegal election maps for congressional and state Senate districts, which have been delayed by court challenges due to accusations of gerrymandering by the Democratic state Legislature. (The Assembly maps have sustained legal challenges so far, and statewide and local races aren’t affected by the state and federal district mapping process.)

Right now, the state’s plan is to stick with the original primary date of June 28 for Assembly races and statewide, county and local offices, and to hold another primary on Aug. 23 for the congressional and state Senate districts.

Other than setting the stage for even more predictably low turnout, which favors incumbents who can organize their voters better, the cost of the two primaries will be paid by taxpayers. How much, exactly? A lot.

A primary election typically costs between $40 million and $60 million, Douglas A. Kellner, co-chair of the state Board of Elections, told Bloomberg News. That cost covers the price of printing primary ballots, setting up polling sites and paying poll workers, he said. County taxpayers bear a lot of that financial burden. A second primary will cost Saratoga County more than $250,000, while Schenectady County officials estimate their cost at over $80,000, according to state Sen. Jim Tedisco, who is sponsoring a bill to compensate local governments for a second primary.

In addition to the cost, a second primary will stress local election staff and poll workers and make it more difficult to attract volunteers, making it an even worse idea.

The “Gerrymander Failure Assistance Act” (S9050) would require the state to compensate municipalities that are forced to pay for an August primary if they’re forced to also host a June primary.

Tedisco’s bill is cosponsored by local Sen. Daphne Jordan, and it has an Assembly sponsor, but no bill number as of Monday.

The bill is great, in that it would take the financial burden off local governments for two primaries.

But taxpayers would still pay for two primaries through their state taxes. The money’s just coming out of a different pocket.

The best thing for voters and taxpayers would be for the state to schedule one primary.

We’d prefer they hold it in September, after summer vacations and when more people are likely to vote. But even one primary in August is better for citizens than two.

Lawmakers should agree to hold one primary. And if they won’t, the state should agree to compensate local governments for the second one.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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