In April 19 special elections, voters will fill out two ballots

New York’s special election to fill former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ open seat is on the same day at New York’s presidential primary, which could boost turnout for the down-ballot race – but perhaps not as much as might be expected.

When voters in Senate District 9 turn out to vote on April 19, those looking to vote in both the presidential primary and special election will have to enter two different voting booths and fill out two different ballots to participate in both elections.

“It’s hard enough to get voters to pull the lever for anybody below the top of the ticket in any election year, and if you ask them to actually fill out two ballots at two stations, you’re almost guaranteeing a sharper drop-off from the presidential primary to the state Senate special election, for instance, in the Skelos district,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies.

Because only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in the presidential primaries, but all registered voters in S.D. 9 can vote in the special election, Levy said this was the only realistic way for the Nassau County Board of Elections and other districts holding special elections next week to operate. The same rules apply in the other special elections on April 19 as well.

“I’m not sure they had any realistic options,” Levy said. “Once the decision was made to hold the special election the same day as the presidential primary, you’re pretty much stuck doing it the way they’re doing it.”

While Levy predicted some drop-off in voter turnout from the presidential primary to the special election, he also said having both on the same day will ultimately increase voter turnout for the state Senate race.

“So, while it’s cumbersome and while there’s going to be a dramatic drop from the total for the presidential primary to the (state) Senate special (election), there still will be a lot more voters overall then there would have been if you did the special as a stand-alone,” he said.