Governor Urged to Sign Pro-Voter Elections Bill

Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County) joined fellow legislators, organizations, and voting advocates in a united call of support for S.3505B (Skoufis) / A.4282 (Paulin). The legislation, having secured passage in both the Senate and Assembly for the first time since its introduction nearly a decade ago, now awaits action by the Governor. If signed, it would consolidate most town and county elections from odd-year schedules to even-year schedules, synchronizing those local races with state and federal contests, helping to drive voter turnout and leading to more representative governments at all levels.

At its core, the legislation aims to address the alarming trend of low voter turnout in local elections, where as few as 20% of citizens currently participate, primarily due to the low-profile nature of many races, election confusion, and voter fatigue. The bill would leverage even-year, higher-turnout races to ensure far more citizens have a voice in choosing their county executives, county legislators, town supervisors, and councilmembers.

Perry Grossman, Director of the Voting Rights Project, New York Civil Liberties Union comments on the proposed legislation.
Perry Grossman, Director of the Voting Rights Project, New York Civil Liberties Union comments on the proposed legislation.

A small number of offices with terms defined by the state’s constitution – some judges, county sheriff, county clerk, and district attorney – are necessarily omitted from the legislation. Skoufis will soon be introducing a constitutional amendment to move these offices to an even-year schedule which would completely eliminate the need for odd-year county and town elections; such an outcome would result in substantial savings to taxpayers.

“Local officials have a direct impact on our communities yet, year after year, a select few are choosing leadership for the many,” said Skoufis. “There is a heap of evidence demonstrating that consolidating local elections with federal races will not only significantly increase voter participation, but also foster a more inclusive, representative democracy.”

A June 2023 Siena poll revealed that pluralities of Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters believe moving most local elections to even-numbered years will be good for New York. This widespread support by the electorate in nearly every corner of the state demonstrates that a simple solution to abysmal voter turnout for key local races exists, and voters are clamoring for it.

“The overarching goal of our representative democracy should be to ensure that we have the highest possible voter turnout for all our elections, whether local, state, or federal. Nearly 2,000 more voters cast ballots in the Town of Cornwall in 2022 than in this year’s election. By moving local races to even numbered years and providing adequate administrative support and staffing to local Boards of Election, we can make sure that more residents have a say in who represents them at Town Hall or in County Government.” said Cornwall Town Supervisor Josh Wojehowski.

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