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New York Redistricting Allows Voters to Change Party Affiliation

In a typical year, voters are prevented from changing their political party affiliation between Feb. 14 and seven days after the June primary date; but due to a complicated redistricting process, voters can change parties, even on primary day.

(TNS) — Want to change your political party affiliation today? You can. Want to change it on Primary Day, Aug. 23, when New Yorkers will cast their votes for open seats in Congress and the State Senate? You can do that, too.

In a normal year, voters are prevented from changing their party enrollment between Feb. 14 and seven days after the June primary date due to state election law. But with New York's lengthy redistricting process to redraw the congressional map leading to two split primary dates, the state Legislature chose not to extend the enrollment freeze beyond the second primary, Aug. 23. Instead, the freeze ended July 5.

The fallout from the Legislature's decision means any New Yorker may change party enrollment — either leave, join or switch parties — prior to or on Primary Day by completing an affidavit ballot, also known as a provisional ballot, that affirms their new party. The result is, as the Gothamist put it Tuesday, an unintended "open" primary election.

This twist affects a high-profile, expensive and contentious primary race in which Carl Paladino and Nick Langworthy vie for the Republican nomination for a redrawn congressional district, NY-23. One of the two will replace former Rep. Christopher L. Jacobs, who withdrew his bid for re-election in June after several Republican party officials pulled their endorsements due to Jacobs' comments on gun control.

In other words, a registered Democrat could change party affiliation, or an unaffiliated voter could join the GOP for this primary alone to participate in the Paladino-Langworthy race.

Or, given the intense partisan divide among voters, this party-swapping opportunity may cause only a ripple. The Buffalo News' Jerry Zremski reported in June that, according to an American National Election Study, the amount of respect that partisans have for the other party fell by about half between 1980 and 2016.

Here's the official language from the state Board of Elections.

"If a voter has cast a ballot in an affidavit ballot envelope on which such voter claims a party enrollment different from the enrollment in the records of the board of elections, such affidavit shall be treated as an application for change of enrollment."

Voters who intend to change party affiliation prior to or on Primary Day must still be registered to vote and must appear at the proper polling location, although early voting allows voters to pick a polling place of their choice. Other ways registered voters may change their party affiliation, or register with a party, include by mailing or appearing in front of their county's board of elections, or by appearing in front of a board of inspectors before the primary, the state Board of Elections said in a press release.

(c)2022 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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