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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

NYC primary could lead to runoff nightmare

State Board of Elections commissioners, Evelyn Aquila, left,

State Board of Elections commissioners, Evelyn Aquila, left, Douglas Kellner, second from left, and James Walsh, third from left, discuss electronic voting machines during a meeting of the New York State Board of Elections in Albany. (Dec. 15, 2009) Credit: Albany Times Union / Paul Buckowski

Despite an earlier push to change the election calendar, this year's primaries appear increasingly likely to be held again in September -- which threatens to create special logistical nightmares in New York City.

"It's very unlikely to change, so we're looking at Sept. 10," Douglas Kellner, Democratic co-chairman of the state Board of Elections, said Friday.

The potential problem involves the runoff that's required between first- and second-place finishers in a primary for citywide office if nobody wins at least 40 percent of the total. Under current law, that runoff takes place two weeks after the primary, on Sept 24.

It has been done that way many times before. But this fall brings the first citywide election since electronic voting was introduced -- and ironically, the new system produces final vote counts more slowly than the old one. So, officials say, two weeks may no longer allow sufficient time to determine the exact primary percentages needed to declare and prepare for a runoff.

"The New York City runoff is a big problem," Kellner said. "There is a possibility -- but only a possibility -- that the date of the runoff can be changed from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1."

Last year, for reasons unrelated to the city's machine problems, the State Assembly voted to move state primaries to June 26. That was the day U.S. Senate and congressional primaries were to be held, as ordered by a federal judge, to meet a new legal mandate assuring enough time for November election ballots to reach citizens overseas. But the state Senate majority rejected the Assembly's measure for a June state primary. They proposed August instead. No agreement was reached. New York ended up with two primary days, costing millions of dollars extra.

Next year, barring a legislative agreement, the state could face the same double-date dilemma, as House and state legislative seats come open again.


AGITATIONS: Ten Republican Assembly members from Long Island are due to appear at a rally Monday morning at Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, along with school board leaders, to demand from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo what organizers call a "fair share" of state school aid in the upcoming budget . . . SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin, a local-government expert, is joining Effective NY activist Bill Samuels in urging Nassau lawmakers on Monday to reject a proposed redistricting plan they see as deeply flawed.

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