Photo: A voter at a booth at Brooklyn College’s Roosevelt Hall. Credit: Michelle Ayr
By Michelle Ayr
If you were wondering why the New York primary was held on a Thursday this year, you are not alone.
New York State Law makes the first Tuesday after the second Monday of September the official date of primary elections. So many voters were surprised when it was announced that the election this year would be on a Thursday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill earlier this year, on Feb. 23, advancing the primary date by two days, to Thursday, Sept. 13, after state lawmakers pushed for the change.
This year, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, during which religious Jews are limited in permitted activities, fell on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Zach Schaffer, the chair of Brooklyn Young Democrats Jewish Caucus, told Fox News, “Holding an election on Rosh Hashanah will unfairly impede on the ability of Jewish New Yorkers to participate in the election process.” Schaffer added, “We encourage our state legislators and Governor Cuomo to ensure that no New Yorkers have to choose between religious observance and civic participation.”
Because Tuesday also fell on September 11, it was believed that casting a vote on the 17th anniversary of the terror attack might disturb some New Yorkers. It was not the first time that happened.
In 2007, the primary was set back one week to September 18, after former Governor Eliot Spitzer signed legislation mandating that change. The concern was that it had fallen on Sept. 11 and some believed it would interfere with commemorations of the Trade Center attack. The election date was adjusted also in 2012, for the same reason.
This year, as in 2012, there was another election peculiarity that confused many New Yorkers. Then, as is the case this year, there were two state primary days – one in June and another in September. That was puzzling to some New Yorkers, critics have said. Critics say New York should be doing more to make the state’s election process simpler.
The competition between state primaries and World Trade Center commemorations goes back in time – all the way back to that horrific day, Sept. 11, 2001. There was a primary scheduled for that very day. It was postponed, of course, because of unspeakable blood shedding, pain and confusion.
While some believe that, out of respect, there should be no voting on Sept. 11, there are some New Yorkers who say: What could be more patriotic than casting a vote on Sept. 11?
“We need to be a voice for those that don’t have one anymore,” expressed Yvonne Greaves, referring to those who were killed in 2001. The 23-year-old was with her friend, Christopher D’Alessio, who said he “would be proud to vote on September 11.” D’Alessio added, “We would be showing that people are coming together to after such a tragic event, and that shouldn’t offend people. If anything, I’d think it’s honorable.”
Some voters had a different opinion.
A student at Brooklyn College, who was on her way out of the Roosevelt Hall polling place at Brooklyn College, agreed. “I don’t see it as patriotic to vote on that anniversary,” said Sasha Zimmermann, “because it was a hard time for a lot of families that lost their loved ones, and they deserve to have that day.”
Another voter, Aisha Thomas, concurred with the idea that the day already has a lot surrounding it. “I don’t agree with those to say to vote on September 11. It’s a day to mourn. We need to let that be a day for the Twin Tower anniversary,” said the 59-year-old.
Years ago, Sheldon Silver, the since disgraced New York State Assembly Speaker, told AuburnPub, “Moving the primary election (from Sept. 11) is appropriate and it recognizes the importance of pausing to pay tribute to the victims of the terrible events that day.”