Letter to the Editor: Changing Election Dates

Within the next few weeks Governor Hochul will have to decide whether to sign or veto legislation that would change the years when the County Executive, town officials run for office.  I urge her to veto the legislation. Currently these  elections are held in off years- not when the President or Governor runs for office. The legislation the Governor will be considering signing would change the election for county officials  and town officials to the years when the President and Governor are on the ballot. The law does not apply to  city or village elections, and for races for county clerk, sheriff, district attorneys, local judges.

Although more people will vote in town and county elections if the elections for these offices are held the same time as Presidential/Governor elections, there are  big negatives to the law.  Local elections will be nationalized. Many of the voters who cast their ballots when there are national elections vote the straight party line.  They are not paying attention to local issues.

There will be much less media attention given to local races. That means that local officials who are unresponsive to the community will stand a better chance of getting re-elected. If there is a heated race for President, Governor, US Senator, US Congressional representative, State Senator, State Assemblyman, County Executive, County Legislator and town officials the same year how many people will focus on the local races? In an off year election the media has the air time or print space to cover local issues.  During a national election year I think there will be very limited media attention given to the local town races. It will be very hard for candidates who are critical of policies of their opponents to get people to focus attention.

I believe that the legislation, if signed, will reduce the influence of neighborhood associations. If local officials disregard public opinion on land use matters (as an example)- it will be much harder to organize successful campaigns to defeat incumbents who were endorsed by the party.  It will also make it almost impossible for independent candidates to win election against party supported candidates–resulting in even fewer contested elections.

Finally, why did our State Legislators decide to change the election years for only town & county  offices but not for village, city, fire district or school votes?

I urge the Governor to veto the legislation.

Paul Feiner
Greenburgh Town Supervisor

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About the Author: Paul Feiner