Metzger bill would expedite 6 a.m. primary start

The state Senate approved a bill by Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, on Tuesday that would open polls six hours earlier in 49 New York counties – including Ulster and Sullivan – for Democratic voters casting ballots in the April 28 presidential primary.

The legislation stems from an oversight in a provision in this year’s state budget that established uniform voting hours across the state for primary elections. Previously, polls had opened at 6 a.m. in New York City and the suburban counties (plus Orange and few others upstate), but at noon in the rest of the state. The budget made it 6 a.m. everywhere, starting 120 days after the start of 2020.

Rut-roh. That fell exactly two days after New York’s Democratic presidential primary, which means most upstaters couldn’t have hit the polls until after noon.

Metzger’s bill corrects that problem with one cross-out and three digits: instead of 120 days after Jan. 1, the new primary hours would take effect in 115 days.

Senators voted 60-2 in support of the bill, still pending in the Assembly.

“We have a very important Presidential primary coming up next year, and there is no reason to delay implementation of this legislation,” Metzger said in a statement afterward. “Voters in Ulster, Sullivan, Delaware, and other upstate counties should have the same access to the polls that voters in New York City and other counties have.”

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