Hochul signs legislation to move local elections to even years in New York

The law applies to municipalities outside New York City and is aimed at increasing turnout.

Voter turnout is much higher in even years, so New York will consolidate more elections to get more voter input.

Voter turnout is much higher in even years, so New York will consolidate more elections to get more voter input. ​​Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Friday that will move most local elections to even years in a bid to improve voter turnout. The law, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. James Skoufis and Assembly Member Amy Paulin, would go into effect in 2025 and affect offices outside of New York City.

Individuals elected after Jan. 1, 2025 would have their terms shortened to match up with an even-year election cycle.

"Every eligible New Yorker deserves the right to participate in the democratic process without unnecessary barriers,” Hochul said in a press release. “This is a meaningful first step and I would support a constitutional amendment to align all election years, to save taxpayer dollars and avoid voter fatigue.” A constitutional amendment would be required to move all elections not under legislative authority, including judgeships and offices within New York City.

Democrats and good-government groups praised the signing. “Aligning local elections with high-profile races will lead to increased voter turnout, particularly among young people and people of color,” Citizens Union Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum said in a statement. In a post on X, Skoufis thanked the governor and called the signing a “transformative win for voter participation and equity.” He has argued that it will save money and increase voter turnout. 

But the controversial legislation had its opponents as well, who denounced the news. “At a time when we should be keeping the divisiveness at the federal and state levels out of our local communities, this bill does the opposite, burying the local issues that impact New Yorkers’ daily lives at the back of exceedingly long ballots,”  New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario said in a statement.

Republicans also opposed the legislation. “With total disregard for the bipartisan opposition to this proposal, Governor Hochul shamefully signed a bill that effectively ends local elections in New York State,” state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said in a statement. “The touted benefits of this bill are a total sham concocted to hide the Democrat's goal of expanding one-party control to every level of government.”

Off-year elections typically have low turnouts without a presidential or congressional race to draw people in. In Ulster County, there are 134,684 registered voters according to the New York State Board of Elections. But during the 2023 general election, just 49,022 voters cast a ballot for the Ulster County district attorney race won by Manny Nneji, a race singled out by Hochul as an important Democratic victory.

Ulster County Board of Elections Commissioner Ashley Torres said she was “optimistic but realistic,” about the change in election procedure. Torres said that state lawmakers should pass legislation that helps support Boards of Elections because they have a hard enough time managing congressional and presidential elections as it is.

“The turnout will be very large and we struggle to find poll sites that fit our large election years,” said Torres. 

She said the state needs to look at how ballots are designed as well because, with more candidates, there could be multiple-page voting slips and longer voting times. Torres said, “that will mean that the lines that we already see in our election years will be that much longer.”

She said an expansion of early voting or more full-time poll workers could be the answer adding, “fingers crossed.”