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Little progress on consolidating primaries


County officials are continuing to chafe at the possibility of having three separate primaries this year, which could come to pass if Albany can’t reach a deal.

“This is an example of the state not knowing what its left shoe and right shoe are doing,” said St. Lawrence County Legislative Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk.

The Republican primary to select a presidential candidate will be held April 24. And a federal judge ruled that non-presidential federal primaries — the race for the north country’s congressional seat, for example — will be held June 26. But the state’s primary is still scheduled to take place Sept. 11, and unless legislation is passed to move it, it will stay there.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could reach a deal with Democrats in the Assembly and Republicans in the Senate to have the congressional and state primaries on one day, as is usually done, but if an impasse occurs, county taxpayers could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more as a result.

In Lewis County, an additional primary election would cost about $50,000, Republican Election Commissioner Ann M. Nortz said.

“With a small staff and small budget, an extra election would be especially taxing,” Mrs. Nortz said.

The county planned for only three elections in its 2012 budget, she said.

At its conference in Albany last week, the New York State Association of Counties passed a resolution requesting that the state hold the congressional and local primaries on the same day. St. Lawrence County passed a resolution requesting the same thing Monday night.

And three primaries could spell chaos for boards of elections, which are looking at the prospect of sending out two different absentee ballots for the general election — one for federal races, one for state races.

“It’s nuts, it really is,” said Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, who said he agreed with county officials’ concerns over three primary dates.

But he also criticized Judge Gary L. Sharpe’s decision to move the primary to June 26, which, he said, could interfere with the state’s budget season — even though the state constitution requires that the budget be adopted no later than April 1.

“We ought to come together and pick one primary day,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “I really would like to have it later than June 26.”

Republicans in the state Senate cite the scheduling conflict with the state budget as reason for their reluctance. Democrats in the Assembly point out that many people are on vacation in August, when Republicans want the primary to take place.

Despite the fact that the two sides appear miles and months apart, some officials are hopeful a deal can be reached.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen now,” said state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome. “Everybody’s mindful of the costs, but this primary should be in August.”

A third primary would cost St. Lawrence County between $50,000 and $100,000. Jefferson County officials have estimated the third primary would cost $60,000, but could reach $100,000, depending on further complications.

Robert F. Hagemann III, the Jefferson County administrator, said that the county would contact its state representatives directly on the matter.

“We would be encouraging that,” Mr. Hagemann said of consolidating primaries. “It’s not money we’ve budgeted.”

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