News Flash

News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: June 16, 2023

Sign petition asking Governor not to schedule town elections during Presidential election years

Link to petition and explanation below



Here’s a short link for sharing:

As voters who live in towns in New York State, we urge you to veto the legislation that was approved by the Assembly and State Senate that would move town elections to even years (Presidential and races for Governor). Currently, town elections are held in off years when voters only vote for local races.

This bill was not discussed with Westchester and Putnam town officials prior to introduction. Town officials found out about the legislation a day before the vote. Civic leaders in towns across the state are just starting to learn about the new law. There was no public discussion on an issue that is of great importance to local residents. This is bad for democracy. During Presidential elections many voters who are not interested in local politics vote. They usually vote the straight ticket. Many voters don't pay attention to the election campaigns down the ballot.

During the more important election years many students who are out of town in college vote absentee. They are registered in the municipalities they grew up in but really are living out of town. They will also be voting in local elections  even though they are not interested in local issues.

This bill will make government less responsive to the community. Currently, if a town official is not responsive to a neighborhood request – the neighborhood can organize and be heard. If elections for town offices are held in a Presidential year it will be much easier for local officials to ignore the will of the people. Because many of the people who come out to vote won't be familiar with the local issues and controversies. It will be easier for developers and special interests to get what they want because the activists won't have as much influence on election day.

In addition, if local elections are held on the same day/year as a Presidential, Senate, House of Representatives, State Senate and Assembly election day there will be much less news coverage of the local elections since the media will be focusing on the more important elections. Having election campaigns for town officials on odd election years will result in more media attention for local candidates and local issues. We don't want these issues ignored and not debated.

The legislation does not apply to elections for paid fire district commissioners which are held in early December, right before the Christmas holidays. The legislation does not mandate that referendums on important capital expenditures for school districts and towns be held in November when more people would vote. 

Why are cities and villages exempt from the legislation? Some elections for county officials and Judicial positions will be held in off-year elections. Even fewer people will vote. Most villages and all school districts vote in months other than November, making hypocritical the argument that all races need to be in even-numbered years in November.  The fact that constitutional changes may be required in several cases only means that more effort needs to be applied, rather than picking the "low hanging fruit" of altering Town elections only. 

Wth school budgets in many cases comprising 50-60% of the tax bill and usually attracting the lowest turnout of all elections, why aren’t schools falling into the same category if the need is for voter turnout?

The legislation bill number is A 04282. One  compromise suggestion: If the state wants to pursue this idea, provide local governments with the option of holding their elections in Presidential  or Governor election years instead of in odd election years when the focus of an election would be on town issues. This should not be a mandate, but a local option.

Paul Feiner

Greenburgh Town Supervisor


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