Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he would like to call a special election for three open state Assembly seats in New York City on April 19, the same day as the state's presidential primary, but Cuomo hasn't done so yet, and one of the reasons may be because of some logistical challenges. Zack Fink filed the following report.
After Assemblyman Sheldon Silver was convicted of corruption last month, his seat was automatically vacated by law. The governor, who has sole power to call for a special election, floated a way of killing two birds with one stone with a presidential primary looming in New York this spring.
"I am looking at calling a special election for the Sheldon Silver seat, as well as two other vacancies that exist now, for April 19. I believe that is within the legal deadlines, and that is the date we are looking at," the governor said on December 1.
But since then, the governor has been silent on this issue. And according to the City's Board of Elections, calling the special election for April may sound easier than it would actually be to pull it off along with conducting a presidential primary.
"The concerns with marrying a primary to a special election is that the special election behaves more like a general election. So in terms of machine setup, for every push, there is a pull," said Michael Ryan executive director of the New York City Board of Elections.
According to Ryan, there are logistical challenges with holding a local special election and a federal primary on the same day. For example, because of the way the software is set up, voters may have to vote twice in the same location, once for the presidential primary and then again in the special. If the board were to consolidate the ballots, Ryan says there would be distribution issues.
However, Ryan insists that if Cuomo wants April 19 to be the date, the board would be able to come through.
"Suffice to say the Board of Elections has sometimes conducted elections under sometimes very difficult circumstances in the past, and they have done so successfully," Ryan said.
Assemblyman Michael Cusick is the chair of the Elections Committee. He says he has yet to hear from the board about any potential obstacles.
"It would be better for us to know now that it cannot be handled, both elections at the same time, then to find out on the special election primary day," Cusick said.
Cuomo could also call the special election for June to line up with the congressional primaries, but according to the Board of Elections, that creates the same set of problems that you have in April.
Cuomo must decide about April by the end of the month.