Party-raiders out, closed primary back in?

That’s the goal of the New York State Board of Elections, which approved a motion on Wednesday to ask Acting State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister to halt party changes ahead of the August 23rd primary.

Their request comes a week after Gothamist first reported about a little-known loophole that would allow any registered voter to switch parties up until and on Primary Day.

That loophole was the product of McAllister’s redistricting ruling that set a second primary date for August, but did not include any language to address the party change deadline set by state election law, which creates a blackout period between February 15th and seven days after the June primary. Party change requests are not processed during that time. There was no such blackout period in place for the August contest.

In a letter sent to McAllister, the state BOE cited the need to protect New York State’s closed primary system. They also included a proposed order stating that the purpose of the state’s registration cut-off date is to, “prevent persons not in sympathy with a party from changing parties with the sole purpose of ‘raiding’ another party’s primary election.”

The state BOE proposed that McAllister set a new cutoff date of August 12th, a day before the start of early voting, as the last possible date for a voter to change their affiliation ahead of the primary election.

Still, the request for McAllister to change the current rules did not have unanimous support from the four state BOE commissioners. In a hastily called, six-and-half minute public meeting to authorize the request to the judge, Democratic Co-chair Douglas Kellner expressed his opposition to the motion.

“I have always supported closed primary elections,” said Kellner. But he noted that the state BOE asked the justice to consider extending the blackout period in his initial ruling issued in May, which he did not do. Kellner also said the state BOE sought help from legislative leaders to address this issue and they declined.

“Given that history I am very wary of seeking to change the rules for conducting an election less than two weeks before the start of early voting,” Kellner said.

That concern for changing the rules so close to the election was overruled by the other three commissioners, including the other Democratic commissioner, Andrew Spano, and both Republican commissioners — co-chair Peter Kosinski and Anthony Casale.

The rules that apply to June are not now currently being applied to August ... I think that's a big problem.

NY BOE co-chair Peter Kosinski

“The rules that apply to June are not now currently being applied to August,” responded Kosinski. “I think that's a big problem. I think consistency in the application of law is very important.”

A secretary for Justice McAllister said he is currently in the middle of trial and did not expect him to respond to the letter on Wednesday.

If the justice does close the loophole, it’s just one more change for local elections officials to juggle after a chaotic redistricting process split the primary election in two, and forced them to process two different sets of district maps.

Those changes have already led the city BOE to send out 17,000 erroneous notices to voters with incorrect congressional and state Senate district information. The city BOE is sending out corrected notices to the affected voters.

When it comes to whether they will need to process party change requests at the polls, or shut the system down sooner, local officials remain optimistic.

“We will be prepared to conduct the election,” said Vincent Ignizio, the New York City Board of Elections deputy executive director, “under either scenario.”