Controversial bill would change local elections to even-numbered years

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A controversial bill that’s sitting in the state legislature would change local elections to even-numbered years to match with state and national elections.

This bill, sponsored by state Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and state Sen. James Skoufis, both democrats, has a goal to increase voter turnout in odd election years. The bill would shift local elections to even years, which means they would be held at the same time as presidential and midterm elections which have higher voter turnout.

If passed, this bill would affect county executives, county legislators, and town supervisors across the state.

Mayor Malik Evans, a Democrat, didn’t give a yay or nay reaction. He says his main concern is making sure voters know what to do.

"That whatever we do does not confuse voters, and ensure that voters have all the knowledge that is necessary as it relates to elections, already we have so many challenges with dates, so I would have to look at the effect around the electorate.”

Some other challenges the mayor addressed was the fact that we have multiple different elections coming up because of redistricting. One coming up in the next few weeks. Mayor Evans says that’s already confusing for voters.

“There will be one in June, one in August, one in November, there is already a lot of confusion as it relates to elections and if we really want to make sure that people come out to vote we have to make sure that any decisions that we make put the electorate first particularly if we want people to participate in this democracy at a high level which right now, we don’t,” Evans said.

The state’s Conservative Party says this proposed bill is all about voter turnout and how it’s shaped. In a statement, it says,

“This proposed bill seeks to “fix” an issue that isn’t broken. There is no confusion in the current system of holding certain village, town and other elections in odd-numbered years. Voter turnout is shaped by issues, for example, people in villages, towns and other election districts, know that their local mayor or town council member has little influence or ability to curb inflation, but can help with a street light on a corner that has far too many accidents. If a corner needs a street light, there is always a large turnout.”

In a statement from the New York Republican Committee, chairman Nick Langworthy says the bill is an attempt to rig and manipulate elections.

“New York Democrats are at it again, working to sneak through legislation that would illegally seize power and upend our entire election system in New York. They will stop at nothing to manipulate the system to rig themselves into total and permanent power. Kathy Hochul said it herself that her mission is to ‘wipe out the Republican Party in New York’ and this outrageous legislation is a consolation prize after their illegal gerrymander was resoundingly defeated by the courts. New Yorkers of all political stripes who care about a strong democracy and accountability in government should be vociferously opposed to this cynical and unconstitutional scheme. We are urging all New Yorkers to immediately call their legislators and Governor Hochul to make their voices heard, and we are preparing once again to fight this with every tool at our disposal.”

The state legislative session ends next week, but there is no indication there will be a vote on the bill. It has been referred to the respective election committees in both chambers.

The bill does not include city elections or races for sheriffs, county clerks, district attorneys, and judges. We asked Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and a handful of our county legislators if they would speak to the bill, again if passed, it does affect their roles. They told me they don’t know enough about it yet to comment.