The electoral experiment that would have allowed voters to register with a new party up until and including Primary Day has ended before it ever began.
The deadline to switch parties ahead of the upcoming primary is now August 11th, two days before the start of early voting. That’s according to a new decision issued Thursday by Acting Justice Patrick McAllister in State Supreme Court in Steuben County. Party change requests received on or after August 12 will not be valid until August 30 — seven days after the August 23rd primary election for congressional and state Senate districts.
McAllister, who made the redistricting decision that split the primary elections in two, issued an order that creates a new blackout period to restrict party changes ahead of the August 23rd primary. It comes one day after the New York State Board of Elections sent a letter to the judge requesting that he close the loophole he created in his original order in May.
The May decision did not address the party change deadline set in state election law. That deadline is February 14 and created a blackout period until seven days after the June primary when no party change requests are processed.
McAllister neglected to establish a similar blackout period for the August 23rd primary, despite receiving advice at the time from the state BOE that his order should address that.
Gothamist first reported last week that this loophole would have allowed any registered voter to change their party through Primary Day.
In issuing the order, McAllister wrote that it was intended to prevent “party-primary raiding,” where voters join a party with the explicit purpose of influencing the outcome of another party's primary.
Supporters of the state’s closed primary system hailed the decision as welcome news.
“It’s gratifying that the Court acknowledges the importance of fixing a problem it inadvertently created,” said Jerry Goldfeder, an attorney specializing in election law who wrote a column for City & State urging the judge to address this “quirk” that could potentially lead to party-raiding.
While the new order closes the window on when a registered voter could change their party affiliation, McAllister did not shut it completely.
“This doesn’t eliminate party switching for the primary,” said election law attorney Sarah Steiner. “But any organized movement to do so now has a week — not until Primary Day.”
An outspoken proponent of open primary systems raised initial objections to news that the state BOE was seeking a ruling to close the party change loophole, and expressed deeper frustration after the judge issued the additional ruling.
John Opdycke, head of the nonprofit advocacy group called Open Primary USA, invoked this week’s primary results in Washington state, where two Republican House members who voted to impeach former President Trump appeared to be leading their Republican challengers in early returns.
That state runs a nonpartisan “top-two” election with all candidates on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters go on to the general election in November.
“While the national media trumpets how Washington State’s nonpartisan primary empowered voters and consensus building candidates in primary day, New York’s bipartisan leadership remains committed to an antiquated closed primary system,” said Opdycke. “It’s shameful.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the deadline to change party registration. It is August 11th.
This story has been updated with additional information.