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Hochul urged to sign bill that would shift some local elections to even-numbered years

State Sen. James Skoufis, center, urges Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bill shifting some local elections from odd- to even-numbered years.
Karina Liriano
Office of Sen. James Skoufis
State Sen. James Skoufis, center, urges Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bill shifting some local elections from odd- to even-numbered years.

Advocates are urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bill that would shift some local elections in New York that are normally held in odd-numbered years to even-numbered ones.

Senate sponsor James Skoufis said the bill would increase voter turnout and save money because it would consolidate many local elections — which typically generate low voter turnout — to even years, when statewide races and presidential races are held.

He said the elections held earlier this month are an example.

“You have 20%, 30% of the electorate making decisions for the entire community,” Skoufis said in an interview. “In those very same municipalities, you have, in some cases, 70%, 80% of people who turn out in some of the even-numbered cycles.”

Skoufis said the aim of the legislation is to leverage that higher turnout.

“And give more people the opportunity to weigh in on who's running their local town and who's running their local county,” he said.

Skoufis on Monday held a news conference attended by government reform advocates, including Susan Lerner of Common Cause.

Lerner said the state holds so many elections on various dates throughout the year — including village elections in March, school budgets in May, and primaries in June — that voters can become confused and weary.

“New York state, there's a concept called voter fatigue,” Lerner said. “And unfortunately, we are fatiguing our voters.”

Opponents include some Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, and the New York Association of Counites. They say if local races are held at the same time as high-profile contests for governor and president, local candidates’ voices could get lost in the mix.

Skoufis and other supporters argue, though, that the higher turnout in even years will give more attention to local candidates for office.

Hochul has not yet said whether she will sign the measure. A spokesman, Avi Small, would only say that the governor is “reviewing the legislation.”

In June, Hochul was asked about the measure, and she said then that she agreed with the concept.

“If you're talking about turnout, I would say having the year when there's more people turning out for either a presidential or gubernatorial race, it increases turnout,” Hochul said on June 7. “And more people voting in these elections is always better for democracy.”

Hochul said at the time that she hadn’t had a chance to look at the details.

The bill does not include all local elections. Some, like county sheriff, district attorney and city elections, are required by the New York state constitution to be held in odd-numbered years. Skoufis said if the measure becomes law, he’s already drafted a constitutional amendment to allow the rest of the races to also be held in even-numbered years.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.