BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the past two days, Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she expects New York to hold two separate primary elections this summer and a federal judge rejected a last ditch effort to restore invalidated state Senate and congressional maps in order to reconsolidate the primaries.
Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner, a Democrat, said he's expecting primaries in both June and August.
"At this point, I don't see any other option," Zellner said.
However, he said the additional August primary will create a litany of new problems — not the least of which is the cost. The commissioner said he expects it to cost his board alone an extra $400,000.
"The funding is something that I'm very concerned about. Counties shouldn't have to bear this burden. We shouldn't have to go to the county taxpayers and say you've got to fork over another half million dollars. I would hope the court and the federal government and Albany have something to say to help our municipalities fund this election," Zellner said.
As an outside expert has begun the process with the courts to draw new maps, there remain a lot of unknowns including how ballot access will work for the August primaries should they remain in place and what will happen with another challenge to the Assembly maps. In the meantime, Zellner said there are deadlines coming up to certify June ballots Thursday in order to send out military and overseas ballots by the end of next week.
"We have to send them out. We've got to get them in their hands," he said. "It could take up to four weeks to get them to people overseas so we want to make sure the receive it in time to turn it around right back to us."
There's also concern about having enough election inspectors to man polling places on the election days and early voting leading up to both potential primaries and the general election. Zellner said Erie County is still recruiting for June at this point.
"We've got thousands of people who make the one day employment here to make it happen and we hope that they're going to continue to help us but there are a lot of challenges put in their way," he said.
The commissioner said the board is doing a lot on social media and its website in terms of voter education but low turnout has been an issue since the Legislature moved the primary date several years ago and its an even bigger concern this year.