New York moving toward open primary, but not for this year’s election

Under New York State’s closed primary election process, only voters registered in a particular political party can vote in that party’s primary. The New York State Assembly may change that, but it won’t be in time for next week’s primary election.

polling-place-electionNew York State Assembly bill A09661, introduced last month by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Suffolk County, on Long Island, would amend state election law to let registered voters who aren’t enrolled in a political party to vote in the primary of the party of their choice.

The idea of an open primary holds new importance this year as voters who haven’t identified with the two major political parties took interest in candidates seeking those parties’ nominations. Registered voters who want to vote in next week’s primary but weren’t registered in one of the major parties had to change party affiliations no later than last October. New voters had until late last month to register.

“My office did a review of what different states do across the country,” says Assemblyman Thiele. “I did consider a completely open primary where everyone could vote and choose the party primary in which they want to vote” on primary election day, he says. “I decided against this approach to avoid the argument that parties can cause mischief by invading the primary of the opposing [party].”

As currently written, the bill would define “undeclared voters” as those with no party affiliation, and would only let those voters choose a party primary on election day. Thiele says he’s willing to consider an amendment that would help voters registered in “minor parties who typically do not have presidential primaries,” such as the Green Party, popular in New York. If such an amendment were added to the bill, it would say “voters in parties that do not have their own primaries should be treated as undeclared voters.”

The bill was referred to committee in late March, but Thiele tells 14850 Today that “there is opposition from the leadership of two major parties, and given the time frame, I don’t see this affecting the 2016 primary next week.” If Thiele’s bill, or an amended version, passes an Assembly vote, it would need to be passed by the State Senate and signed into law by the Governor before it could take effect.

“My goal is to start the conversation this year,” Thiele tells us, “and make 2016 the last closed primary in New York so we have an open presidential primary in 2020.”

Polling places will be open from 12 noon to 9pm next Tuesday, April 19th, for New York State’s presidential primary election.

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