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New Yorkers will vote in a second primary election this year thanks to redistricting


Voters go to the polls in New York this week for the second time in two months - if they can find out where they're voting and when. As member station WSKG's Vaughn Golden reports, a rescheduled primary on top of newly drawn voting maps is making for some confusion.

VAUGHN GOLDEN, BYLINE: Claire Agrawal is out in her driveway on a mild Thursday evening in Ithaca as canvassers with the state Senate campaign are working through her neighborhood. Agrawal knows a little bit about the candidates through flyers she's gotten in the mail and from the canvassers but is still a little confused.

CLAIRE AGRAWAL: So yeah, the dates I'm not quite clear on. Which - let me see. It's here, which is good (laughter).


AGRAWAL: So yeah, these pamphlets are helpful because I'm not clear on the details. And you get really busy with life, and you're like, oh, whoops, did that pass?

GOLDEN: And she's not alone. Why is New York holding two primaries this summer? A judge ordered state Senate and congressional primaries to be postponed after the state's highest court tossed out redistricting maps drawn by the legislature. Oh, and on top of that, Agrawal lives in Tompkins County, which is included in a special election to fill a vacant seat in the upstate 23rd Congressional District. But while Tompkins is in the current 23rd District, it's not in the new one because of redistricting. Yeah, virtually nobody disagrees. It is confusing.

SUSAN LERNER: I'm Susan Lerner, and I am the executive director of Common Cause New York.

GOLDEN: Common Cause is a nonpartisan group focused on fairness in voting. It opposed moving the primaries to August.

LERNER: So not only do we have a situation where for many people, the district in which they're voting in may have changed, which changes where they vote. Now the dates have gotten crazy.

GOLDEN: She and many political strategists believe that will make for lower turnout. Less than 1 in 5 Tompkins County voters showed up for the June election, and that involved Republican and Democratic primaries for governor. Lerner says turnout could be higher in some areas, though, depending on what races are going on there. One example might be New York's 10th Congressional District in Manhattan. Six Democrats are running in a highly contested race for that seat.

LERNER: So the candidates and where they choose to put their resources can have a tremendous impact on turnout because our election authorities and our municipalities don't spend resources engaging voters.

GOLDEN: And Tompkins County may be an example of this, too. It's a heavily left-leaning county, making it hugely important for Democrats running in two separate primaries in the region. One of those is Josh Riley, who's running in a Democratic congressional primary in the new 19th District. Of course, there's another separate special election in the old 19th District, too, with a different Democrat running in that race. Riley was voting early last week and brought along his toddler son.

JOSH RILEY: We have had to explain to voters, no, you can actually vote for both of us. So in the eastern part of the district, I think there's some of that confusion. But I really think as the elections coming up, and now we're in early voting, people get it.

GOLDEN: What may be cutting through the confusion the most might just be canvassers and candidates going door to door and getting word to voters in their driveways. For NPR News, I'm Vaughn Golden in upstate New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Vaughn Golden

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