STATEMENT: The Institute for Responsive Government Urges Governor Hochul to Sign S3505/A4282 to Increase Turnout for Municipal Elections
For Immediate Release: December 12, 2023
ALBANY — As Governor Hochul wraps up the 2023 legislative session, the Institute for Responsive Government urges her to sign S3505/A4282, which would move most county and city elections in New York from odd-year elections to even-year elections. This bill is a crucial step towards making elections in the Empire State more efficient, accessible, and representative of all New Yorkers.
“Moving town and county elections to even years is an important, common-sense step toward creating more representative elections and saving money for election officials,” said Sam Oliker-Friedland, executive director of the Institute for Responsive Government. “Rather than voters needing to cast their ballots across multiple days and across multiple years, this bill begins the process of adopting a more efficient system for voters and election officials. This bill will bring more voters into the political process, including young voters and voters of color, and avoid extremely low turnout and unrepresentative results in local elections.”
“By signing this bill, Governor Hochul can continue to be a leader on election reform, with New York providing a model for other states on ways to increase accessibility and efficiency in their elections.”
Odd-year elections have significantly lower turnout than even-year elections. Just 18% of eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot in the 2023 election, compared to 42.5% in the 2022 election and 61.1% in the 2020 election. Extremely low turnout in these odd-year elections often leads to unrepresentative outcomes, where county and town officials are elected by an extremely small minority of voters.
S3505B/A4282B can reduce these unrepresentative outcomes. By moving most county and town elections to even years, when federal and statewide races are also on the ballot, this bill will significantly increase turnout in these races. Several published studies have found that voter participation in local elections doubles in even-year elections, which is why experts from across the political spectrum have described even-year local elections as by far the single most impactful way to increase turnout and representativeness.
This change can also help make the electorate in local elections much more reflective of New York’s diverse population. When California cities moved to even-year elections, turnout significantly increased among young voters, Latino voters, and Asian American voters. By signing S3505B/A4282B, Governor Hochul can help increase representation for communities of color and young voters in their local governments.
Moving local elections to even years would also save money and increase efficiency for election officials. S3505B/A4282B represents a major first step towards consolidating elections in New York that are currently unnecessarily spread across multiple days and multiple years. Ultimately, if all local elections are moved to even years, county boards of election will be spared the expense of holding separate low-turnout affairs in odd years and see efficiency benefits from fewer election days. One study found that moving odd-year elections to even years in Washington, Montana, and Idaho (three states with a combined population much smaller than New York) could save roughly $30 million per two-year election cycle. It’s common-sense that consolidating elections can free up election officials to deploy their resources more efficiently in even years.
Shifting local elections to even years is also popular with New York voters, who recognize the efficiency and representation gains of aligning local elections with state and federal elections. A recent Siena College poll shows that voters across party lines support moving local elections to even years, with respondents supporting the change by more than 2 to 1. Governor Hochul should sign this important, popular policy to increase accessibility and efficiency for New Yorkers.
To speak with subject matter experts about New York’s potential shift to consolidate elections, please contact email@example.com.
The Institute for Responsive Government is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to ensuring state and federal governments work effectively for the very people they serve. The Institute for Responsive Government provides data, research, and expertise to elected officials in order to find practical policy solutions that make government systems more efficient, accessible, and responsive.