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Judge schedules NY primary for June, but at what cost to taxpayers?

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 2/10/2012, 11:46 a.m.
Bill Moore photos

A federal judge ruled that New York's congressional primary should move from September to June, which could lead to three primaries this year.

Last Friday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gary Sharpe ordered New York State to move its primary congressional elections to June 26. He ordered all subsequent congressional primaries to be held on the fourth Tuesday in June as well.

"It is unconscionable to send men and women overseas to preserve our democracy while simultaneously disenfranchising them while they are gone," wrote Sharpe in Friday's ruling. "To some extent, that is precisely what New York has done.

"The court fully recognizes that a permanent primary date is best left to New York, but has acted as it must to preserve federally protected voting rights," he said in his decision.

Sharpe reached his decision after New York State was unable to follow the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act that required more time between primary and federal elections so soldiers overseas had enough time to send absentee ballots. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state and the Board of Elections last year over the matter.

But Sharpe's decision means that New York State could hold three statewide primary elections this year, with the presidential primary in April, the congressional vote in June and state and local primaries in September. How much will that cost taxpayers?

The decision is also confused by the fact that if congressional redistricting is not done on time, the June 26 date can't stand.

A spokesperson for the Board of Elections told the AmNews that the calculations haven't been done yet because the primary schedules aren't etched in stone. "We could potentially move the state primary into the federal primary," said the spokesperson, "and combine the two."

Sharpe required the state Board of Elections to reset campaign filing and finance calendars for the congressional elections five days after the ruling. After that, he said, he'd give federal officials another five days to make suggestions and then the state would have another 10 days to make the necessary changes. Finally, everything would have to be approved by the Department of Justice.

The general election takes place on Nov. 6.