Due to a change in New York State legislation, the Ulster County Board of Elections will no longer be providing school districts with voting equipment for their elections.
On Monday, Jan. 14, the senate democratic majority passed a series of bills in attempt to “improve New York State’s broken electoral system” due to the state’s consistent low voter turnout, ranking at No. 41 out of 50 states. The bills passed will attempt to establish early voting, “no-excuse” absentee voting, “modernize and expand” voter registration, limit Limited Liability Company (LLC) contributions, extend primary voting hours and “ensure uniformity throughout the state.”
The legislation will also consolidate all New York State primaries to June 25. According to the New York State Senate, the consolidation of the federal and state primaries “will save taxpayer dollars” and ensure that the state’s election laws will align with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.
Before this new legislation was passed, New York State held two primaries on the years of federal elections, one taking place in September and the other in June. On years of local elections, only one primary in September would have been held.
“Voters are angry about the barriers they face in trying to participate in our democracy,” said New York State Senator Rachel May in a press release. “Many important races in our upstate district were decided in the second primary of the year, on a Thursday afternoon in September, on a date exquisitely timed to prevent the many college students in the district from registering at their new addresses.”
Republican Election Commissioner of the Ulster County Board of Elections, Thomas F. Turco claimed that holding two primaries allowed the Ulster County Board of Elections to aid school districts by supplying voting equipment, but caused some problems as well. At the end of last year, the Ulster County Board of Elections anticipated the consolidation of the primaries, so the school districts were notified that they will no longer receive voting equipment from the board of elections.
This new legislation will also shift the whole “political calendar” for the board of elections, making June, May, April, March and the beginning of February the busiest months of the year.
“For us to handle the school election in May when we’re preparing for our election in June is just not feasible,” Turco said. “We are not required to assist school elections; Ulster County was one of the first to do so.”
In addition, there would be issues with continuing to use the schools as polling sites with primaries being held in June.
“Some schools close on general election day, so they don’t mind us using the schools [as polling sites] because there’s not children in them, a lot of the districts have class [on June 25] so they’re concerned,” Turco said. “So, that’s why we look at other areas, we look for other poll sites, we’re open to suggestions.”