The Saga Continues: New York’s MOVE Act Waiver Denied


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In a trip through the archives yesterday, I mentioned the ongoing drama in New York State about whether or not the state’s September 2012 primary would be moved up to give military and overseas voters enough time to vote in compliance with the MOVE Act.

New York has always had its own timetable with regard to implementation of federal election laws; the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the state to court numerous times to enforce the Help America Vote Act’s requirements for a statewide voter registration database and accessible voting technology.

The Empire State dodged a court date in 2010 when it received a waiver from the Department of Defense with regard to the MOVE Act. Then, DOD found that New York – whose primary is in September, too close to the 45-day window for mailing military and overseas ballots – faced “undue hardship” because it had too little time to change the state’s election calendar after the enactment of the MOVE Act in late October, 2009. The waiver was accompanied by a court order requiring ballots to be mailed by mid-October – a deadline which evidence suggests more than half of New York counties missed despite the waiver.

Two years later, the primary is still in September, and New York attempted a sequel, requesting another waiver for 2012. The federal government’s first response was for DOJ to file suit in federal court seeking an order moving the primary to August (“Irresistible Force Meets ImMOVEable Object,” September 27). Yesterday, DOD piled on, denying the 2012 waiver thanks to a finding that New York had failed to demonstrate undue hardship. In particular, DOD rejected the state’s suggestion that redistricting had made it difficult to move the primary, noting that “nothing … requires that redistricting occur prior to enacting other legislative changes” and observing that “New York has made the legislative decision to prioritize its redistricting process”, not that it was compelled to do so.

None of this seems to have generated a sense of urgency in Albany. New York’s April 24 presidential primary is not at issue, but the sticking point is the combined state/federal primary in September. The federal judge hearing the case could separate the two and move the federal primary to August – adding an election date (and attendant costs) to the calendar – or state officials can find a way to move the combined primary to August.

Not surprisingly, politics is the source of delay. According to the New York Daily News, House and Senate leaders are feuding about if and how to move the date:

Senate GOPers want to move the legislative primaries up to August, something Assembly Speaker Sheldon Speaker opposes.

Silver [a Democrat] wants [the federal judge] to give the state a free pass on altering the congressional votes in 2012 in exchange for holding future primaries in June. He accused Republicans of going back on just such a deal — a charge GOP senators denied, saying there never was a deal.

Republicans, holding a thin majority in the Senate, say a June primary held during the legislative session would force lawmakers to choose between doing their job and campaigning for reelection.

And so it goes. Stay tuned for further developments – but don’t expect them to come quickly; when it comes to election reform in New York, nothing ever does.

1 Comment on "The Saga Continues: New York’s MOVE Act Waiver Denied"

  1. Judge could also order ranked-choice voting, eliminating the primary for all, or just ranked-choice primary-and-general-together ballots for the military.

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