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NY: Primary Day, At Last!

WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas

New York voters enrolled in a party are going to the polls today to choose their presidential candidates.

For the first time in recent memory, New York is a powerful player in the nomination race.  Democratic and Republican voters alike are showing their support, and perhaps their appreciation, for the candidates who spent the last few weeks, days and hours barnstorming the Empire State.

Although polls showed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with significant leads over their respective opponents, the surveys didn’t appear to dampen voter enthusiasm Tuesday.    "It was exciting to have this much involvement. We got to see the candidates, we got to meet the candidates, they actually cared about our votes this time. That was encouraging!"

That's Rockland County Republican Committee Chairman Lawrence Garvey. Polls are open until 9.   "Our board of elections here in Rockland County is experiencing a much higher than normal primary day. In fact, they're likening it to a general election, so we're seeing the same types of numbers in a primary that we would normally see in a general election, and that's unheard of."

The same scenario is playing out across the state. Democratic Albany area Assemblywoman Pat Fahy says the vote is exciting for both parties, but is glad "we're in the home stretch."   "Everybody's a little worn down, it's been a very long campaign season. I've already voted, as soon as the polls opened, early this afternoon. Already it was busy and steady, and some places are I understand are already rather crowded, so I think that's a good sign. "

Fahy, who supports Clinton, tips her hat to the large numbers of young people from both parties attracted to the primary.   "Many have been supporting Bernie, but I see that as positive. The fact that the primary has gone this long, I see it as a good thing. It keeps the debates out there, it keeps the number of the important issues out there, and it makes voters think. I know a couple of people who've said 'Well, I'm still trying to decide,' and that's a good thing too; it means you are weighing the issues."

Although attention from candidates is old hat in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, New York has hosted visits by Clinton, Trump, Sanders, Ted Cruz and John Kasich in recent days. Garvey says the campaigning has continued even through primary day.   "About 11 o'clock last night I was gettin' off the Thruway by me in West Nyack, and there was a huge Bernie Sanders trailer, all lit up, they were still havin' a rally at 11 o'clock on the side of the Thruway so, they didn't stop."

Albany County Legislator Chris Higgins is a Sanders backer.    "It's pretty amazing to see Senator Sanders closing the gap here in New York. I expect to see a very, very close primary. I don't expect to see a blowout. And I think you'll see Senator Sanders doing very well, so I would encourage everybody they can vote until 9 p.m."

But not everyone can in the closed primary. Election Justice USA, a newly-formed national voting rights organization, filed an emergency lawsuit in New York Federal District Court Monday, challenging closed primaries. The group singles out statutes in both the National Voting Rights Act and New York Election law, aiming to shift the burden of proof of eligibility from voters to the Board of Elections, which is named as defendant in the case.

The group advises any New York voter who wishes to participate in the primary but is not on the rolls to request an affidavit or provisional ballot.

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