The Nassau County Democratic Committee held their 2019 convention at the Cradle of Aviation on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 (Photo by Tab Hauser)

New York State’s recently enacted election reforms will make it easier for voters to cast their ballots but the sped-up political calendar will also make running for office more challenging for candidates.

In addition to allowing early voting nine days before the elections starting this year, reforms that the State Legislature passed in January also nixed the usual primary day in September and bumped it up to the same day as the federal primary in June — meaning underdogs challenging party nominees will lose months of campaign time.

“We have to get started a little earlier than usual,” says John Jay LaValle, the outgoing chairman of Suffolk County Republican Committee who is stepping down in March before he starts doing more media touting President Donald Trump, as he did in the 2016 campaign.

On Long Island ballots this year are dozens of races, including those for Suffolk County Executive, Nassau County District Attorney, both county legislatures, judgeships, town seats, as well as Glen Cove and Long Beach city posts. That’s in addition to village and special district races that aren’t held on Election Day.

Both the Nassau and Suffolk GOP chapters held their nominating conventions in February instead of May, as did the Nassau County Democratic Committee, while the Suffolk Democrats are forgoing the convention altogether, party officials say.

The new timeline includes bumped-up deadlines to meet state Board of Elections requirements to get on ballots. Candidates began circulating designating petitions on February 26 and have to file those petitions by April 4. Candidates seeking to primary party nominees can begin circulating independent nominating petitions April 16 and have to file the paperwork by May 28. The petitioning process was previously held over the summer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes the reforms will increase voter turnout.

“The truth is New York’s voter turnout is among the lowest,” he said when signing the reforms into law. “The early voting is going to be transformative for the system.”

While candidates will be appearing earlier than usual from now on, the issues on the campaign trail will remain the same.

“I think voters are looking for grassroots real people to run for office who can really represent them,” first-term Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who isn’t up for re-election this cycle, told Democratic party faithful during the convention in Garden City last month. “I think they’re sick of do nothing politicians who are not doing the right things for the right reasons, they are doing the wrong things for their own reason. People are looking for a change.”

-With Michelle Gabrielle Centamore

RACES TO WATCH

Suffolk County Executive
Democrat Steve Bellone seeks third term
Republican challenger: Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy

Nassau County District Attorney
First-term Democrat Madeline Singas seeks re-election
Republican challenger: Francis McQuade, attorney from Long Beach

Hempstead Town Supervisor
First-term Democrat Laura Gillen seeks re-election
Republican challenger: Hempstead Town Tax Collector Don Clavin

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor
First-term Republican Joseph Saladino seeks re-election
Democratic challenger: Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna

Brookhaven Town Supervisor
Republican Ed Romaine seeks fourth full term
Democratic challenger: Will Ferraro, a former state legislative aide from Selden

NEW THIS YEAR

Early Voting
Voters can cast ballots starting nine days before Election Day, November 5.

Primary Day
Primaries will be held June 25 instead of in September.

Voter Registration
Voters who move to another county won’t have to re-register.

FUTURE REFORMS

These reforms are pending additional state action

No-excuse Mail-in
Voters will be able to mail in absentee ballots without having to provide an excuse.

Pre-registration
Sixteen and 17 year olds will be able to pre-register to vote, so they’ll be enrolled on their 18th birthday.

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.