State lawmakers are poised to pass legislation to change New York’s archaic party enrollment deadline, giving voters far more time to join the Democratic Party before the competitive presidential primary next year.

Under legislation that will be voted on Wednesday, a permanent deadline of Valentine’s Day will be created for state and presidential primaries. Voters who want to switch their party enrollment or join a new party will have until February 14th of next year to do so. This will apply both for New York’s presidential primary, set for April 28th, 2020, and state and federal primaries that will follow in June.

“We think it’s a significant reform,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, the Manhattan Democrat carrying the bill in the upper chamber. “It’s still a little longer than some of us would like.”

Kavanagh was referring to the behind-the-scenes struggle over the legislation, which left some advocates wanting a deadline much closer to election day. For years, competing legislation has floated around the Democrat-controlled Assembly to change a party enrollment deadline that is the furthest away from election day in America. Progressives organizations, especially the anti-establishment True Blue NY, wanted a party enrollment and switch deadline to be the same day newly registered voters can join a party to vote in a primary—25 days before an election. In some states, voters can even join a party on election day.

“Four months is still quite a long time for people to be paying attention to politics, especially state politics,” said Mia Pearlman of True Blue NY, referring to the time between Valentine’s Day and the June primary. “That is disappointing.”

The selection of February 14th was seen in Albany as a compromise among legislators who have been wary of changing the party enrollment date. Among lawmakers who are conscious of protecting incumbents, any change of the date was seen as a way of making Democratic primaries more unpredictable, especially with the threat of challenges to Assembly Democrats looming in 2020. New voters, especially left-leaning independents, are likely to be less friendly to longtime incumbents.

As of now, voters in New York must change their party registration by October 11th, 2019 to participate in the 2020 primaries. In past years, the little-publicized October deadline has meant voters who don’t become registered Democrats nearly a year before a scheduled primary are locked out from participating. Far more New Yorkers became aware of this deadline when Senator Bernie Sanders stormed New York’s presidential primary in 2016 and many of his supporters found they had missed the deadline to register as Democrats to vote for him.

For Sanders supporters, moving the party enrollment deadline closer to election day has been a top priority. Other progressives and good government advocates have also called for a change, which in past years was blocked by a Republican-controlled Senate.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who Kavanagh's office says is likely to sign their bill—co-sponsored by a Hudson Valley lawmaker, Jonathan Jacobson, in the Assembly—took little interest in electoral reforms in past years. (Cuomo's office has not yet responded to a request for comment.)

The debate over party enrollment became far more confusing when the New York State Democratic Party voted in May to allow voters unaffiliated with a party to become Democrats 25 days before the April 2020 presidential primary. Members of the State Democratic Party, especially from its emboldened progressive wing, argued they had the ability to make this rule change for Democrats because the rules of a presidential primary are determined in concert with the Democratic National Committee.

But the State Board of Elections, as well as election law experts, argued only legislation could alter laws pertaining to party enrollment deadlines. The BOE told Gothamist it would not be able to adhere to the rules passed unanimously by state committee members.

In light of the legislation in Albany that would contradict the State Democratic Party’s vote in May, one executive committee member said the party would meet in the fall to discuss their options.

“We will decide whether we want to file suit against the Board of Elections to enforce the [State Party’s] rule,” said Kelleigh McKenzie, a member of the party’s executive committee. “If the state committee decides not to sue, I think we will have to amend the 2020 delegate plan … We will still be the worst in the nation when it comes to the June primaries.”

Kavanagh, who also worked on electoral reforms when he served in the Assembly, said the passage of the Valentine’s Day bill does not preclude future changes to the law. He is still hoping the legislature can move the party enrollment and switch deadlines as close as possible to election day.

“My bill to make party change available right up to the voter registration deadline is still out there,” he said.