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One week left to change your party for 2018 primaries

October 6, 2017
Editorial , Lake Placid News

On Oct. 13, one week from today - that's the deadline to change the party affiliation on your voter registration in time to vote in next year's primary elections.

We repeat: Next year's primary election - not this year's. Crazy, right? Not only do we have to endure the modern-day mantra of politics 'round the clock, 'round the calendar, seeping into every aspect of society; we also have this super-premature deadline to worry about, thanks to stodgy old New York. Actually, "stodgy" is almost too fond a word. "Arcane" or "cryptic" would be more accurate.

Nevertheless, you can't vote if you aren't registered, so the purpose of this editorial is to inform and prepare you.

Article Photos

Voters head into the North Elba Town Hall during a past Election Day.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)

In New York, only registered members of a party can vote in that party's primary. Therefore, if you're registered as a non-party voter but want a say in determining which candidate represents any party next year, you'd better get your paperwork in quickly.

Primaries are almost certain next year to decide who represents the North Country in the U.S. House of Representatives. incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik already has a Republican opponent, Russell Finley, and the Democratic side is super-crowded - now up to seven announced candidates: Donald Boyajian, Tedra Cobb, Ronald Kim, Steve Krieg, Emily Martz, Patrick Nelson and Katie Wilson. Christopher Schmidt is also running as a Libertarian.

Our state makes registering to vote harder than necessary - Exhibit A being the extreme advance deadline to change party enrollment before a primary. It must be 25 days before the last general election, which works out to Oct. 13 this year.

That's firm, and there's no separate postmark deadline. If your county board of elections staff doesn't receive your change-of-enrollment paperwork, either by mail or in person, before they go home on that Friday - and by the way, the Essex County Board of Elections office closes at 4:30 p.m. - then for all of next year you're stuck with whatever party (or none) you had before.

It's very different if you need to change your address or file a new voter registration. For that, you can do it now in time for this coming general election, Nov. 7. Nevertheless, the deadlines are strangely staggered:

New registration forms must be postmarked by Oct. 13 and received by the 18th, or completed in person at the county Board of Elections office by Oct. 13.

Change-of-address forms must be postmarked by Oct. 13 and received by the 18th, or completed in person at the county Board of Elections office by Oct. 18.

Again, those are for this year's election. To change party enrollment, you have to make the change now for next year. Why? Who knows? Our best guess is that election officials can't to bothered to deal with it more than once a year.

None of these deadlines are obvious. How would you know about them if your newspaper didn't tell you? Good question. County board of elections staff will tell you if you call or stop by, but don't expect them to reach out. They don't advertise or promote these deadlines in any way. It's hard to find them on the counties' websites. You have to go out of way to ask - and who would think to do so eight months before a primary except a longtime local or someone with an inside track on information?

One can register many different ways.

First, you may want to check whether you are registered and, if so, what address and political party you're registered under. Go to the state Board of Elections website,, and click the button in the middle that says "Want to find out if you are registered and where you vote?" Then fill in your name, date of birth, ZIP code and county.

You can also download a registration form from or pick one up at any county board of elections office or a wide range of state agency offices.

Then, when you have filled out the form, mail it to the Essex County Board of Elections, 7551 Court St., P.O. Box 217, Elizabethtown, NY 12932.

You can also register to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Elizabethtown or on the state DMV website,



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