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Don’t love your party? Dump it by Valentine’s Day

The presidential primary elections are soon approaching and local election commissioners want voters to know the new rights and rules of early voting and to remind them that not just anyone can participate in a primary election. You have to be registered in a party if you want to vote in its primary.

New York is one of 11 states with closed primaries, meaning voters from outside the party — even ones not affiliated with any party — cannot vote in their primary elections.

Franklin County Republican Election Commissioner Tracy Sparks said in 2016 she encountered some confusion with voters regarding this policy.

“If they want to be involved in the entire process, it’s kind of important to be affiliated with a party,” Sparks said.

Election reforms passed by the state last year extended the deadline for when voters can change their party affiliation before an election. If changing registration by mail, the mail must be postmarked no later than April 3 and get to the board of elections office before April 8.

Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, is the last day to request a change in voter party registration. Any change request received after that will be processed after the primaries. Before this reform the deadline was seven days after the previous year’s general election.

“It’s been a little bit more popular this year I think,” Sparks said. “On both sides of the aisle.”

April 3 is the last day for someone to register to vote. April 21 is the last day an application for an absentee ballot can be postmarked.

Essex County Republican Commissioner Allison McGahay said there are new primary election hours this year, too. On election days — not early voting days — polls will open at 6 a.m. instead of noon.

Essex County Democratic Commissioner Sue Montgomery-Corey said voters unsure of their current affiliation or where they are registered can check the state Board of Election’s website at voterlookup.elections.ny.gov.

Presidential primary

The presidential primary election will be held on April 28, with early voting being held from April 18-26.

There are 12 candidates in the Democratic primary: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

There are four candidates in the Republican primary: incumbent Donald Trump, Rocky De La Fuente, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld. The Republican National Committee voted in 2018 to eliminate its debate committee in the 2020 campaign cycle so these candidates will not face off on stage.

Federal, state and local primaries

The rest of the primary elections — congressional, state senate and assembly, county, town and village — will be handled on June 23, with early voting for these positions taking place from June 13-21.

New York’s 21st Congressional District currently has candidates on the Republican and Democratic lines facing no intra-party challenges. Incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik is running on the Republican line, and Democrat Tedra Cobb from Canton is running again for the seat.

There are three candidates vying for retiring state Sen. Betty Little’s 45th District seat: Republicans Assemblyman Dan Stec and Kevin Beary, a retired English teacher from Colton, and Democrat Kimberly Davis from Clinton County.

There are also four candidates vying for Stec’s 114th Assembly district seat, as he is not running for reelection: Republicans Queensbury Supervisor-at-Large Doug Beaty and Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, Democrat Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, and former Thurman town supervisor Evelyn Wood with the SAM party. (Correction: Wood’s name was left out of an earlier version of this article, as she just announced her candidacy Wednesday.)

There are no Essex or Franklin County seats up for election this year.

Early voting

There will be nine days of early voting leading up to each election, a total of 27 days of early voting and a total of 30 days to cast votes this year. This is the second time New York boards of election will run early voting, having previously done so for the November 2019 general election.

“It went smoothly for sure,” McGahay said. “(But) we didn’t see the numbers that we were hoping to see.”

In 2019, 294 people early voted in Essex County, and 328 did in Franklin County.

Both counties’ election commissioners said they expect more this year, being a presidential and congressional election year.

Running early voting comes at a cost to both counties, but Essex is more prepared for that this year than Franklin.

“Financially, it’s problematic,” Sparks said.

Sparks said it is unlikely there will be a second early voting site in Franklin County this year, as she had hoped. She said the county will likely be unable to provide a south-end early voting center because of a lack of funding.

Montgomery-Corey said Essex County has a grant still available from last year it has not spent yet. She said the board has not met yet to discuss the possibility of a second early voting site.

The general election will take place Nov. 3 with early voting from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.