by Dan McClelland
County Legislator and Village Mayor Paul Maroun is not happy with the changes that begin this year in the state's new election laws.
Earlier this year Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a number of election reforms as part of his 100-day agenda. Subsequently the state legislature passed a series of bills designed to make voting easier.
Part of the reform package makes it easier for New Yorkers to request and receive an absentee ballot. It would change the constitutional requirement that those who request an absentee ballot have a qualifying reason, such as absence form the county on Election Day or an illness or disability.
Another piece of the package calls for early voting, by as much as ten days before any general election. Also in the package is the move to synchronize federal and state elections, which among other things moves up September state primaries to coincide the federal June primaries.
That change in particular upsets the local county legislator.
Candidates for office next November have to make important decisions right now, he says.
People interested in challenging an incumbent need to talk to their political party leaders right now.
Beginning this year, just one party primary will be held in June. In the past primaries for federal positions were in June and primaries for other elected posts were in September.
Traditionally prospective office-seekers didn't decide until April and didn't start carrying petitions until June, with the September primary in sight.
Now campaigning will start in the winter, making for a very long season.
“Here's why I'd don't like it,” Maroun told the Free Press last week.
“The snow birds are still all gone.”
To run for county legislator this November, for example, under the election date changes, he has to start preparing by February 26. Election materials have to be filed by a date in March, he said.
“People will now be campaigning from now to November. -And it's a pain, to be out in the snow, gathering petitions.”
The other big issue in the election changes is the ten days of voting in prospect.
“In a county of less than 50,000 people, you have to have one polling station open. You can have more, but you have to have at least one.!”
With each polling station comes the need for security, the people to staff it- every day for ten days which include Saturdays and Sundays.
“We're looking at doing one in Saranac Lake and one in Malone.”
Here's another problem, he offered.
“Until the state goes electronic books and it hasn't yet agreed on a firm to do that,” there's possible trouble. “When Paul Maroun votes early ten days before the election, if his name doesn't get transferred from the polling station book to the main book, some people may end up voting twice.
Until the entire system goes electronic, election officials will have to check all the names on the prior day books and compare them to the main book, to insure there's no duplication, he explained.
So everyday the polling clerks at the polling stations will have to transmit the names of those who voted at their stations to the main book in Malone.
Opening up the voting to the days before every election is going to cost counties money, and the Governor has promised to provide $10 million for all the counties to share. Maroun hopes the Governor delivers on that promise.
A number of other North Country politicians are also unhappy with the changes, citing the five months between Primary Day and the general election. That could mean aspiring politicians will have to spend more money on advertising to keep their name in the public's eye and election signs on lawns for five months, not two.