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Why do villages still have spring elections? Editorial

February 22,2018 08:36

A bunch of villages across Westchester, Rockland and Putnam hold their elections in spring — this year, March 20. But why? Many leaders who still adhere to this antiquated tradition say spring elections allow villagers to focus solely on the most ...


A Journal News editorial Published 6:30 p.m. ET Feb. 21, 2018

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People are busy, no matter if they live in a village, hamlet or town. Shouldn't voting for the people who will make hyper-local decisions be made as convenient as possible? Video by Nancy Cutler/lohud Wochit

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A bunch of villages across Westchester, Rockland and Putnam hold their elections in spring — this year, March 20. But why?
Many leaders who still adhere to this antiquated tradition say spring elections allow villagers to focus solely on the most local of issues. But there are distinct downsides to holding a hyper-local election divorced from the busy November ballot.
Separate spring elections cost villages more (the county’s Board of Elections picks up the tab for the General Election ballot in November); many villages limit voting hours and locations, compared to the General Election; and since the village-level offices and propositions are the only items on the spring ballot, the election dates are easy for residents to forget.
Quaint doesn't get out the vote. Turnout for village spring elections tend to be just a fraction of the electorate that turns out in the November General Election.
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South Nyack is the latest village to switch. On March 20, the village ballot will carry two uncontested trustee seats. The next village vote will take place in November 2019, when the mayor and two trustee positions will be on the ballot. Mayor Bonnie Christian, one of three out of five Board of Trustees to back the change, cited double taxation: village residents' county taxes already fund the county Board of Elections to run the elections, why use village taxes to run a separate election? "It just made all the sense in the world to change to November." 

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Hillburn Village Hall.
 (Photo: JOURNAL NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Many villages, though, haven't ever officially considered a shift to fall. The major-party dynamic that takes over November doesn't fit the local political landscape, where various village candidates run on lines like the "Back to Basics Party" line in Cold Spring or "Common Sense Party" in Pelham, or the “Preserve Hillburn” vs. “Change for Hillburn” ballot lines in that tiny Western Ramapo village. But there are also the old GOP and Democratic lines, too, in many places.
Villages handle basic services — like trash and recycling pickup, snow removal and park maintenance. But that most local form of government ends up tussling with bigger governments on behalf of their residents, too. Small does not mean unimportant, by any stretch.
People are busy, no matter if they live in a village, hamlet or town. Shouldn't voting for the people who will make hyper-local decisions be made as convenient as possible? That’s a lot to weigh against tradition. 

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Election workers Doris Vasser, left, and Jean Black help Cathy McCue as she signs in to vote at South Nyack Village Hall during the 2014 spring elections.
 (Photo: Seth Harrison/The Journal News)

 
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