New York’s unique primary rules will keep some from casting ballots

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — With record voter turnouts mounting for this year’s presidential primaries, New York is expected to be no different come April 19. For the first time in a long time, this state will be in play. And a rule unique to the Empire State could cause some frustration at the polls.

Record turnouts at Tuesday night’s for primaries in Arizona and caucuses in Utah caused long lines and headaches at the polls.

But some experts predict more trouble on April 19, when New Yorkers cast their primary ballots, in a state predicted to be very much in political play.

“There’s going to be a lot of confusion at the polls on April 19,” said Kevin Hardwick, political science professor at Canisius College, and Republican Erie County Legislator. “I would not want to be an Erie County elections inspector for any amount of money in the world, because people are going to show up and say, ‘I want to register and I want to vote.’ And they can’t.”

The final day to register to vote in New York state is March 25.

And, those considering jumping on the Donald Trump bandwagon must be registered Republicans to cast a ballot in the April Primary; Democrats must vote on  a Democratic ticket; Independents will be turned away.

That’s a rule somewhat unique to New York, and could cause confusion at primary polls, experts say, since so many voters across the country have switched parties to vote for a particular candidate.

“The problem is, on April 19, there’s not going to be a lot of order,” Hardwick said. “There’s going to be chaos at the polls because people are going to think they can show up and vote in a different party than they’re registered, and they’re not going to be able to. It’s going to be very very confusing.”

John Marchant, of Williamsville, is a registered Independent, who tried to vote for Hillary Clinton.

“With everything that’s going on this year, it’s become much more important as far as this race goes,” Marchant said. “It is frustrating. I don’t think there should be any law that prevents somebody from changing from one party to another at any time. I think it’s our freedom of choice, and I think it’s being restricted by New York state.”

The same was true for Canisius College senior John Toomey, who wanted to cast his primary ballot for Donald Trump. He’s an independent who tried to change his party affiliation in November, after the General Election.

“As an independent I really have no say in the process because there’s really no primary for independent voters,”Toomey. “I understand the thought behind it, but it is frustrating.”

It’s also rare that a presidential primary in New York matters.

“Usually by the time they get to New York, the nomination process is over, and we’re just waiting for the convention,” said Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Len Lenihan. “Everybody wants to be a part of this election, so I think the turnout is going to be up.”

Over the next couple of weeks, the Erie County Board of Elections is expected to be busy, and they expect big turnouts — 25 percent or greater in both parties, Lenihan said — in April.

Lenihan said that’s good news because the more people who have their voices heard in this race, the better.

“It’s exciting. This is what we do here. We run elections. I think it’s going to be a historic day,” he said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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