Most county leaders across the state are furious as lawmakers are expected to pass legislation at the last minute Friday to move most town and county elections to even-numbered years.

Supporters point to national research showing a more than 18% increase in voter turnout during presidential election years.

Bill sponsor Sen. James Skoufis says the change will maximize voter participation and improve New York's democracy.

"As it stands right now, in a lot of these local, town and county elections, you have 20 or so percent of voters deciding the outcome for the entire jurisdiction," he said. "Why are you so afraid of 50, 60, 70 percent of voters determining who should hold these local positions?"

Assembly sponsor Amy Paulin also says the change would save taxpayer dollars over time by reducing the number of elections held in the state, but county leaders are skeptical it would lead to savings.

Elected officials in the middle of a term would be allowed to finish out their time in office, and those elected in an odd-numbered year after 2025 would have their term reduced so the office will be up for election again in the following even-year election.

County leaders across the state are exasperated by the measure, saying national and state races will drown out local issues and make voters less engaged in their local elections.

"In local elections forced to be with state and national elections, it's going to suck up the media time — it's going to take the air out of the room," said Michael Zurlo, president of the state Association of Counties and the Clinton County Administrator. "How is that a town board member or a county legislator or supervisor is going to have the opportunity in the platform to discuss real issues — issues that affect the day-to-day concerns of their communities? Are they going to be able to afford a 6 p.m. news slot? Probably not."

NYSAC officials say more than half the county leaders across the state's 62 counties, including both Republicans and Democrats, have contacted the organization to voice their opposition and concerns about the proposed change. County officials have successfully killed the measure's passage in recent legislative sessions.

The mandate would not apply to city or village elections, nor for specific elected offices protected in the state Constitution to be held in odd-numbered years, including county clerk, sheriff, district attorneys, local judges and others.

Lawmakers plan to introduce a constitutional amendment next session to add city elections into the mix. It would require passage by two consecutive legislatures before voters would pass or adopt the change.

"This is all about voter participation," Paulin said. "We have other offices that we cannot move the year, but we're on the path to do that. ...There are parts of it, we want to be careful, but we want to change the county clerk, sheriff, town justice and DA, and then also, of course, the cities. That's the long-term goal. And the goal, of course, is to get everyone paying attention."

But Zurlo argues if voters get to decide the change for cities, counties and localities should get the same public referendum.

"I simply cannot understand the reason behind this legislation," he said. "This is an issue for locals. This is a home rule issue."

They're hoping Gov. Kathy Hochul's former roles as a local official, including Erie County clerk, will help her to listen to county leaders' pushback and veto the bill.

Hochul seemed interested in the proposal when asked about it Wednesday, but added she needs to see the final passed legislation once it's sent to her desk.

"If you're talking about turnout I would say having a year when there's more people turning out for a presidential or gubernatorial race, it's an increase in turnout, and more people voting in these elections is always better for democracy," the governor said. "But I've not had a chance to look at the details."

Republican lawmakers are strongly against the legislation, arguing voters will be overwhelmed by the number of candidates, and it will impede meaningful debate about local issues.

They also question Democrats' political motives in changing the state's election system that works well. 

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Smithtown. "The system works fine. And if there's an important issue in any local community, voter turnout takes care of itself.

"...You're stuffing 5 pounds of you-know-what in a 3-pound bag by doing this," he added. "It's going to overwhelm the voter. There's not enough television or radio time for all of these candidates to get their messages out."

But a host of nonpartisan good-government groups such as Common Cause and others broadly support the proposed change to election law. They also support the floated constitutional amendment to expand the change to cities.

"Moving local elections to even-numbered years dramatically increases voter turnout," said Ben Weinberg, Citizens Union's director of public policy. "And it also makes the electorate more representative of the population."

Representatives with the Senate and Assembly Democrats said Thursday they're confident about passing the legislation.

"It says everything you need to know about the modern-day Republican Party that they are opposed to anything that increases voter participation," Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said.

The state Board of Elections does not generally comment on proposed legislation until it is passed by the full Legislature.

But in a statement, a representative from the state Board of Elections said: "Regardless of the impact of the proposed legislation, if it is passed, the Board will abide by the new law and follow whatever statutory changes are required.”

The Legislature is also poised to pass legislation before leaving Albany for the year — at least one day late — to change the date of New York's presidential primary to April 2 in alignment with other northeastern states.