Village elections, which were set to take place Wednesday, have been postponed until April 28 over growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
The village elections will now take place on the same day as the presidential primary, according to an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.
“Public health officials have been clear that reducing density is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread, and delaying village elections will help ensure poll workers and voters are not potentially exposed to the virus and at the same time maintain integrity in our election system,” Cuomo said, according to a statement posted on the state website.
The state Board of Elections has been in touch with Greene and Columbia County election commissioners, who are awaiting instructions on how to proceed.
“It came at the very last minute so we are still adjusting to it, but given the current situation it was probably the prudent action to take,” Greene County Election Commissioner Brent Bogardus said Tuesday.
The delay comes as no surprise, Columbia County Election Commissioner Kenneth Dow said. “Things have been changing daily if not hourly. The state is giving a lot of guidance on these matters.”
Delaying the election is better for elderly voters and poll workers, Greene County Election Commissioner Marie Metzler said. “I think it’s best for the community and all involved.”
The delay affects contested village board elections in both counties, including those in Coxsackie, Athens, Catskill and Kinderhook.
“We have alerted all of the candidates and villages of the delay,” said Bogardus. “Once you have run an entire campaign, most candidates would like to have it over. But we are in a unique time with this challenge.”
Kinderhook Village Clerk Nicole Heeder called to notify the four candidates running for Kinderhook Village Board, but most had already heard about the delay on the local news. She went to work early Tuesday morning to send an email blast notifying village residents of the change, she said.
It is unclear whether village trustee candidates will continue to campaign until Apr. 28. There is nothing prohibiting candidates who want to keep campaigning, both Bogardus and Metzler said.
Samuel Aldi, a village trustee candidate in Catskill, said he would continue to campaign on Facebook and over the phone during the delay.
Grouping the village elections with the presidential primary could present logistical problems.
“For village elections the hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For the presidential primary the hours would be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., so we would be conducting elections with two different sets of hours, which is logistically challenging,” Bogardus said.
Greene County officials are awaiting answers from the state Board of Elections on how to address absentee ballot voting, which is supposed to come to a close on election day, Bogardus said. “There are lots of questions. We will prioritize the most urgent things.”
Election preparations had already begun when the governor’s executive order was announced, just two days before the election. The Village of Kinderhook was preparing to clean polling stations and protect poll workers and voters, following instructions from the state Conference of Mayors, Heeder said.
Everything is in flux, said all of the county election officials reached for comment. It is possible that the April 28 election could be further postponed, said Bogardus.
Profiles of candidates in contested village races in Athens, Catskill, Coxsackie and Kinderhook appeared in the March 14-15 editions of The Daily Mail and Register-Star. They can also be seen by visiting HudsonValley360.com.
New York state is considering moving its primary to June 23, said Douglas A. Kellner, co-chairman of the state Board of Elections.
Meanwhile, local officials await word from the state Board of Elections.
“Once they give us specifics, then we can be more clear on how we proceed,” Metzler said.