(The Center Square) – A New York judge on Thursday closed an unintended loophole when a new primary election was established for congressional and state Senate races.
Acting Steuben Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister ordered that registered voters wanting to change their party affiliation must do so by next Thursday, Aug. 11, if they want to vote in their party’s Aug. 23 primary.
In late March, McAllister ruled congressional and state Senate districts drawn up by the Democrat-majority Legislature gave Democrats unfair advantages. New districts were eventually drawn, but that required taking those races off the June 28 primary election and pushing them back by nearly two months.
However, the special primary fell outside the blackout period to prevent party affiliation switches leading up to the primary. State election law establishes a blackout starting on Feb. 14 and ending seven days after the June primary.
On Wednesday, lawyers representing the New York State Board of Elections sent McAllister a letter asking for a blackout period to maintain the primaries' integrity. New York operates closed primaries, meaning only registered party members can vote in their party’s races.
“The February to June blackout period prevents changes of enrollment from being effectuated for the singular purpose of influencing the outcome of a particular primary election,” Kimberly Galvin and Brian Quail wrote.
McAllister agreed and said he would “preserve the sanctity” of New York election laws. Without McAllister’s ruling, voters would have been able to change their party affiliation up to and including the Aug. 23 election and vote in that party’s election.
Under his order Thursday, any voter who changes their party affiliation on or after Aug. 12 will have that move take effect on Aug. 30.
The early voting period for the primary starts on Aug. 13.
New York voters wanting to change parties can do so online through the Department of Motor Vehicles website or by going to their county board of elections office.
New York has 26 congressional districts and 63 state Senate seats, all of which are up for election this year. Winners of the primaries will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.