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OpinionEditorial

New York voters deserve more flexibility from parties

A woman holding her child votes at the

A woman holding her child votes at the Mt. Zion Methodist church in Oak Park, Va., in Madison county on March 1, 2016, during the Super Tuesday primary voting. Credit: Getty Images/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

For New Yorkers closely watching Tuesday’s presidential primary voting in five states, your turn to go to the polls is only a month away. But some registered voters in New York won’t get that chance. They’re already five months too late to qualify.

Across the nation, voters energized, or dismayed, by the emergence of Donald Trump and the twists and turns of the 2016 presidential race are overwhelming polling booths and caucus sites. Some of these states allowed same-day registration or allowed members of one party to cross over to vote in another’s primary.

New York, one of the most inflexible states about party affiliation, does neither. Here’s what state law says about party membership and primaries: If you have never registered to vote in New York, March 25 is the deadline to get on the rolls and choose a party.

So, for first-time voters looking to boost Trump or another candidate, the Republican primary is open to you; just sign up for that party. Those followers of Bernie Sanders who join the Democratic Party before March 25 also will get a voice in the primary, which is why his campaign workers are out in force around downstate colleges.

However, if you are a member of any of the state’s six minor political parties — or a “blank,” the indelicate way the state labels those who specifically choose not to register with a party — you cannot vote on April 19. That’s about one-third of New York State’s registered voters. The deadline to switch parties was Oct. 9 (state law requires that any switch of registration must occur a month before the last general election). These sclerotic rules don’t reflect the decline in party control as voters have more access to information about a candidate.

So Working Families Party members who want to support Sanders are out of luck. Conservatives, Independence Party members and blanks can’t get a GOP primary ballot to give Trump or anyone else more delegates.

This is how New York’s political parties maintain control over their nominating processes — to keep out insurgents or block the gamesmanship of crossover voters. Yet there is a difference between a closed primary and a locked one like New York’s. Voters in this state should have more flexibility about how and when they can join a political party.— The editorial board

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