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Why is Primary Day on a Thursday this year?

A lingering effect of the 2001 terrorist attacks – and a Jewish holiday this year – explain why primary voters will be heading to the polls today instead of the usual Tuesday voting day in New York State.

The Legislature early this year unanimously approved pushing the primary voting day, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill on March 2.

It is the third time primary voting has been changed so as not to coincide with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist strikes.

In 2007, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed the first such delay, which pushed primary voting back a full week to September 18 that year. In 2012, Cuomo OK'd a measure pushing the Tuesday primary day back two days to Sept. 13.

Besides being the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Tuesday was also the second day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year holiday.

Because state elections law sets primary day for state and local offices as the first Tuesday after the second Monday in September, lawmakers and Cuomo had to make the special change for this year. With turnout notoriously low in primary contests, the change is expected to drag turnout down even further.

A legislative memo in support of the date change legislation this year said holding the primary on Tuesday would be “problematic for observant Jews who wish to participate in the primary election” and also that the Sept. 11 terrorist attack anniversary is one that “many New Yorkers choose to solemnly observe.’’

Not changed, again, in the law this year is a provision in the state election law that critics have long said institutionalizes suppression of voter turnout in most upstate areas of New York. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. in Erie County, New York City, Long Island, and the lower and mid-Hudson counties of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester.

In the rest of the state, voters will have six fewer hours to vote; polls don’t open in those areas until noon. That affects, for instance, 1,187,884 registered Democrats who might want to vote in the statewide contests and won’t be able to do so on their way to work or after kids are off to school.

An unfamiliar day for voting but familiar names on ballot this Primary Day

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