The Democratic View: Election Season All Year Long

Kathy Zahler

The year 2018 is just getting started, but it’s not too early to educate yourself on this year’s round of elections. If you think of election season as taking place when the leaves turn colors and football starts up in earnest, you are only partly right. Thanks to New York’s arcane primary system and the state’s refusal to synchronize voting, a citizen registered with a party in our state may be expected to go to the polls as many as five times this year—and that doesn’t even count caucuses. Here’s what’s upcoming.

If you live in the villages of Cayuga Heights, Dryden, Groton, or Trumansburg, you have an election on March 20 at which you will choose a mayor (in Cayuga Heights, Dryden, and Trumansburg) and trustees (in all four villages). By the time you read this, your caucus to choose candidates will already have taken place.
If you live in the village of Lansing, your election isn’t until April 24. Petitions for candidates will start circulating in early February.

If you live anywhere in the county, your school elections are set for May 15. Are you interested in running for school board? Contact your district clerk to find out when petitions will be available.

An important Democratic primary June 26 will determine which of seven current Congressional candidates will earn the Democratic ballot position for November’s election. Petitions for that primary will start circulating in March, with a filing deadline of April 12.

If this year’s Congressional race hasn’t been on your radar, you have several opportunities to learn more about the candidates before you vote in June. Links to their websites are on our committee website: tcdemocrats.org. Several of the candidates have held or will be holding meet-and-greets in the county. The Tompkins County Democratic Committee is partnering with several other organizations to bring all seven candidates to the State Theatre for a straw poll on Monday, Feb. 12, at 6:30 p.m. All registered Democrats from the county are eligible to cast a non-binding vote at that event, with the simple goal of seeing where interested county residents currently stand regarding this large field of candidates.

We don’t yet know whether we will have a state primary for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, or attorney general. If we do, it will be on Sept. 11. That is also the date of any local primary; for example, a primary vote for sheriff or county clerk or city court judge may take place at that time.

The Board of Elections sends you a card to remind you about the November election. All of these other voting opportunities require you to pay a little more attention. We always try to list upcoming votes on our website. In the meantime, here are two critical impending dates.

Monday, February 12: Hear from all seven Democratic candidates for Congress in the 23rd district and vote in a Democratic straw poll. State Theatre, Ithaca, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 20: Village residents only: Vote for mayor and/or trustees. Cayuga Heights: Kendal at Ithaca. Dryden: Village Hall, 16 South Street. Groton: Village Hall, 143 E. Cortland Street. Trumansburg: Village Hall, 56 Main Street. Noon to 9 p.m.

If you are unsure whether you’re registered, if you’ve moved and need to re-register, if you don’t know where you vote, or if you need an absentee ballot, visit the Tompkins County Board of Elections website: tompkinscountyny.gov/boe. All of that critical information is right dead center on the opening page, available by clicking bright blue buttons. The Board of Elections website even offers useful links to local school districts.

When election season is all year long, it’s valuable to know the people who manage all of that. BOE employees are always helpful when I call with questions. Call Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., (607) 274-5522.

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Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. See the committee website at www.tcdemocrats.org.