EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Despite years of effort from state officials to move the date of the annual Eastchester Fire District elections to the general election ballot in November, voters will still be trekking out in the cold for a separate election in December this year.
In an effort to boost the traditionally poor voter turnout at fire district elections, a bill – first proposed by Scarsdale Assemblywoman Amy Paulin five years ago - consolidating the fire and general elections remains in limbo as officials continue to push to move the date to November.
In order to become law, the bill must be approved by both houses of the Legislature, be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and subsequently authorized by the Westchester County Board of Elections to make it official.
The bill has been in play since 2010. In 2011 and 2012, it was approved by the Assembly but died in the Senate. Two years ago, the bill passed both houses, was signed by Cuomo, but never made it past the Board of Elections.
The main objective of the bill is to increase voter turnout at the fire district election, which includes both Bronxville and Tuckahoe. At previous discussions held by New York Sen. George Latimer and Paulin, residents expressed displeasure at having to travel in the dead of winter, often in inclement weather, to vote.
Latimer, who has been active in attempting to move the election for years, noted that on average, less than 5 percent of registered voters in Eastchester make their way to vote in fire district elections, which are traditionally held in the middle of December, when winter weather can be an impediment to those not eager to venture out into the elements.
“A significant number of residents told us they wanted a change in the date,” he said at a public forum in Eastchester while promoting the legislation. “By consolidating the election dates, Eastchester residents will be able to vote in the general election at the same time as the election for the fire district commissioners.”
If the bill is ever signed into law and the vote moved to the general election in November, residents will have the opportunity to vote at 16 polling sites, as opposed to the eight that are available during the December vote.
“We reached out to the Eastchester community and a diversity of voices said they wanted the opportunity to vote in these elections at a more convenient time, Latimer said. “This is an example of listening to the voice of the people.”
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