Election Reform Requires Adjustment for BOE, Committee

While spring hasn’t come early, it might feel that way to Putnam County Board of Election workers and political committee members as the timeline to get candidates on the ballot has been pushed up due to election reform passed at the state level earlier this year.

For the first time in decades, candidates seeking public office in New York need to start collecting signatures to get on the ballot later this month now that the primary date has been moved from September to June to match when the federal primary is held. In years past, candidates and committee members didn’t need to collect signatures until late May and committees didn’t need to decide on endorsements until at least April.

Several town committees, including in Carmel and Southeast, have already selected its candidates for local elections. The board of elections is also working toward getting things ready with an accelerated schedule.

Republican election commissioner Tony Scannapieco said he would’ve liked to see the new election schedule implemented next year rather than this year because it now feels rushed. He argued state assembly members and senators, who voted for the new layout, don’t want kinks worked out next year when they are all up for reelection.

“You don’t think they’re going to have this tested when they’re running, do you,” Scannapieco asked rhetorically. “So they rushed us into this, we got no time, we’re going crazy, we can’t get answers what do we have to do. After 28 years (as GOP commissioner) it’s just a joke.”

But as the Putnam and Carmel GOP committee chairman, Scannapieco said the adjustment hasn’t been too burdensome and the committee is right on schedule. Still, some personal sacrifices have been made with Scannapieco mentioning his planned two-week vacation to Florida in

February had to be canceled and other committee members needed to change their plans for the rest of the winter.

“And I am not going to Florida in July or August,” Scannapieco quipped.

Democratic election commissioner Cathy Croft differed with Scannapieco and said she preferred the petitioning and election schedule be moved up this year rather than next year when turnout will be much higher with a presidential election. She also noted when the primary was held in September, there was a time crush to print the ballots between that election and the general election, especially if there was legal action taken after the primary election.

“I would’ve preferred doing (a June primary) ten years ago,” Croft said.

Croft, who is the Southeast Democratic committee chairwoman, said fielding candidates now for local races hasn’t been much of a challenge. She also noted it might be easier to collect signatures in the winter because more people are home to sign rather than the summer when many folks are on vacation.

“If I can’t find somebody now, would I be able to find someone in May,” Croft said of fielding candidates. “These election reforms were a long time coming.”

Philipstown GOP chairman Kevin McConville said Scannapieco gave local committees the heads up that petitioning would likely start earlier this year well before election reforms had been passed by the state Legislature (the reforms had been talked about for almost a year leading up to the vote).

“While the process has moved up and is earlier, I don’t think it’s caught any of us as surprised,” McConville said.

When asked whether he prefer collecting signatures for candidates in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, McConville replied, “We don’t have a preference. We’re going to collect the necessary signatures rain, snow, sleet, cold, it doesn’t matter.”