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Different ballots, different rules in New York primary

Erie County Board of Elections

The rules of eligibility to vote in Tuesday's New York Primary differ from the rules in other states. Here, it's open only to registered Democrats and Republicans. Also different are the ballots they'll use. Voters for one of the parties will choose not only  a presidential hopeful but also the delegates.

Republicans will choose only a presidential candidate. The delegates who will offer up nominations at the GOP national convention this summer will be selected later by state party leaders.

Registered Democrats, however, will be given the opportunity to select up to seven delegates in addition to their favored presidential candidate. Those delegates are identified on the ballot by name and by which candidate they would nominate at the party's national convention. 

"If a Hillary Clinton supporter wants to go down the line, they can do that," said Erie County Elections Commissioner (Democratic) Len Lenihan. "The same with Bernie Sanders."

Lenihan admits, though, that in theory one could choose some of Clinton's delegates and some of Sanders' delegates but the belief is that most voters would simply go down the line in support of their preferred candidate. 

The Democrats have another measure in place to balance delegates by gender, beginning with New York's 1st Congressional District.

"They have to be evenly divided by women and men and they will be picked by how they get the popular vote," Lenihan explained. 

The Republican ballot has its own oddity. Although he has been out of the race for many weeks, Ben Carson still appears on the ballot. That's because his campaign missed a late March deadline to have his name removed from the ballot.

While Carson has since thrown his support behind Donald Trump, a vote for Carson in the Primary will not carry over and count towards Trump. 

In New York State, only registered Democrats and Republicans are eligible to vote and must be registered to either party as of last October. The exceptions are first-time voters who had until last month to sign up in order to be eligible.

Late last week, some local elected officials recommended changes to New York's laws regarding voter eligibility. New York's laws requiring advance registration held up in a 1973 Supreme Court case.

"Both parties feel that if you want to vote in the Democratic Primary and choose our candidate, you should be a Democrat," Lenihan said. "Republicans, same philosophy. If you want to help pick the Republican candidate, you should be a Republican."

Lenihan explained that if an individual changed their Republican or Democratic party affiliations after last October's deadline, they may still vote in Tuesday's primary but under the previous affiliation. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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