BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When the New York State Association of Counties met last week for its annual fall conference, delegates representing 57 counties, including more than 300 town supervisors who serve on their county boards, unanimously adopted a resolution asking Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto legislation moving local elections to even-numbered years.
Republican Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is part of the bipartisan group opposing the bill.
"The state Legislature did this in the dark of night in the final hours in Albany," he said. "They didn't have committee meetings. They didn't have a process where counties, towns said, 'we have a problem, come fix the problem,' because there is no problem."
NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario said by moving the elections to the same year as federal and state races, it takes focus away from local issues.
"These county leaders are connected to their communities, to their school districts, to local issues. There's a reason why they're separate from federal issues, from state issues. They want to focus on water, sewer, housing issues," Acquario said.
New York state Sen. Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, said he voted for the measure because significantly more people participate in even-year elections. He gave an example from his district.
"In the even years, between 50 and 70,000 people vote in Amherst, but in the odd years, only about 25 to 30,000 vote so we're going to have a lot more people participate in elections and how can that be a bad thing?" Ryan asked.
County leaders push back against the turnout argument, pointing out races lower on the ballot typically get fewer votes and consolidation will create an even longer ballot. They also argue there are no savings or efficiencies for boards of elections because there are numerous exemptions for cities, school boards, and even county races like district attorney, sheriff and clerk that will ensure elections still happen on odd-numbered years.
"People in our communities don't even realize they're trying to steal their local election day and water down the importance of the local elections which are closest to the people. So the governor really needs to step up and veto this or else she owns this," McMahon said.
Upstate county leaders also say state legislators from New York City contributed to the passage of the bill even though the bill exempts the city from the change.
They believe those lawmakers should abstain from voting on issues like this where there has been a specific effort to make sure their constituents aren't impacted.