The challenges of holding party primaries for both state and federal offices on the same day are so overwhelming that only 49 of the 50 states were able to manage it this year.
Just not New York, which will hold its state primaries Thursday. They had been scheduled for Tuesday, as state law dictates, until legislators passed a one-time fix to move it from Rosh Hashanah.
New York had held both sets of primaries on the same day in September until 2016, when a federal judge ruled that was too late to guarantee overseas service members would get absentee ballots 45 days before federal general elections. So this year, New York held its congressional primaries on June 26. But common sense suggests that much lead time is not necessary in this internet/airmail age, an argument bolstered by congressional primaries this week in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. And that whatever lead time is necessary for our federal elections should also have to exist for our state elections.
If all the primaries were held on the same date, anemic turnout would increase. Holding them on the same date also would save New York about $25 million in each cycle. State legislators need to agree to a combined primary voting date before the 2020 cycle, when the always-early presidential contests would add a third primary date.
It’s bad to come 50th in the efficiency of our state primary system. But it’s even worse when the other 49 states are all tied for first place.