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NY election commissioners: Postpone presidential primary due to coronavirus
ELECTIONS

NY election commissioners: Postpone presidential primary due to coronavirus

Early Voting 2

FILE - Voters wait to sign in at Clifford Park Clubhouse in Auburn Oct. 26, 2019. Clifford Park Clubhouse was one of three early voting sites in Cayuga County.

New York county election commissioners are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to consider postponing the state's Democratic presidential primary due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The Democratic presidential primary is scheduled for April 28. For now, early voting will begin April 18 — not long after Cuomo believes the COVID-19 outbreak could peak in New York

One concern relayed by the New York State Elections Commissioners' Association is the availability of polling inspectors. Poll workers tend to be older and are at risk of serious illness if they contract the coronavirus. Fielding inspectors, the commissioners' group argued, is "dangerous and may be impossible." 

The availability of polling places could be a challenge for election boards. Some polling sites may not be usable because the buildings are closed. 

The elections commissioners' association suggested moving the presidential primary to June 23 — the same date as the congressional, state and local primary in New York. 

"Postponing until June will not only give us time to plan, but will ease the burdens on host counties budgets that are devastated by the COVID-19 crisis," the group wrote in its statement. 

There are also five special elections in New York scheduled for April 28. The races include the special election to fill the vacant 50th state Senate District seat. Portions of Cayuga and Onondaga counties are in the district. 

The Onondaga County Board of Elections endorsed the statewide group's recommendations and asked the state to either cancel the special election or move it to June 23. Katie Lacey, the Democratic elections commissioner in Cayuga County, said she and Cherl Heary, the county's Republican election commissioner, support the recommendations. 

For now, Cuomo hasn't addressed whether he thinks the presidential primary and special elections should be moved. Other state leaders have come out in support of moving the primary. Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said Tuesday that the primary should be moved to June. 

The state election commissioners' organization also asked Cuomo and legislative leaders to allow absentee voting when states of emergency are declared due to pandemics. And the group wants local election boards to have more flexibility to consolidate polling places and election districts. 

"While we hope the COVID-19 crisis will be better by June, it is quite likely we will have limited numbers of polling places and inspectors even then," the association wrote. "We need this flexibility to adjust to circumstances on the ground in our jurisdictions that may be changing right up until the June 23 election." 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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