New Paltz Democrats ditch caucus for primary

December’s New Paltz Democratic Committee meeting (l-r): Juliann Castelbuono, Democratic Commitee Chair Josh Honig and committee member Rick Remsnyder. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

No longer will members of the Democratic party in New Paltz have to arrange day care, take the night off of work or otherwise rearrange their schedules to select local candidates. Paperwork that was recently filed at the county Board of Elections office makes it official that voters will choose their preferred town candidates in a primary, just as they do for every other level of government.

According to deputy election commissioner Ashley Dittus, primaries are also held in Kingston and Woodstock, and the change has both pros and cons. “The committee will have to figure out who the candidates are earlier, she said; caucus dates are selected by local committee members, and when they are held can be a matter of strategy. Primaries always happen on the same date; this year they will likely be September 12, although the calendar has not yet been finalized. Dittus also pointed out that primaries are more accessible, as the hours are longer and voters can use absentee ballots; one’s presence is required for a caucus. The minority Republican party will continue to caucus for its candidates.


Democratic committee member Dan Torres argued in a 2014 New Paltz Times opinion piece that caucuses are inherently unfair, writing, “Most egregious to me is how the caucus process disenfranchises. We often scoff at communities who make their residents wait in long lines for hours to vote. Yet, this is common practice for town caucuses. Nearly two hours elapsed from the opening of the 2013 Democratic caucus before people were allowed to cast their ballots.”

Election costs are paid for by the county, while caucuses are funded by political committees. Dittus said that a local primary in New Paltz usually runs about $5,000, and she does not expect that cost to rise due to this decision. ++