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State Democrats move to shorten primary registration deadlines

Eileen Elibol
Bernie Sanders (l) and Hillary Clinton on the Presidential campaign trail in 2016.

The state’s Democratic Party leaders have voted to greatly shorten the lead time before voters can register to cast a ballot in the 2020 Presidential primaries. Under current laws, voters in New York must register in a political party more than six months before the primary vote is held. Party registration can only be changed 25 days or more before a general election, held in November. The presidential primaries are not held until late the following April.

In 2016, New York gained negative attention for having the most restrictive rules in the nation. The long lead time to register favored the more establishment candidate Hillary Clinton over challenger Bernie Sanders and progressive groups in New York complained. Clinton won the primary.

State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs said he wants to change that to 60 days before the primary.

“Which brings it a lot closer,” Jacobs said, following a meeting of party leaders in Albany May 23.

Jacobs said those not enrolled in any party can register even closer to the presidential primary date, 25 days before.

Jacobs said the changes were made partly to appease left leaning members of the Democratic Party, who have often been at odds with the more moderate Gov. Andrew Cuomo over policy issues.

“We have to be united to defeat Donald Trump,” said Jacobs.

The new rules would guard against anyone joining a party or switching party affiliations just to vote in the Presidential  primary. Once a voter registers in a party, they cannot switch to another party for a period of two to four years.

The Presidential primary will be held on April 28, 2020. The new rules need to be approved by the legislature and are expected to pass.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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