Statewide voter turnout hovered between 20 and 30% across New York in local elections held earlier this month, but the state Association of Counties continues to fight against a proposed law headed to the governor's desk that would switch those races to even-numbered years — supporting a floated constitutional amendment instead.

The legislation — one of the significant measures of the 150-plus Gov. Kathy Hochul has not signed — would move most town and county elections to even-numbered years. Lawmakers passed the bill intending to align most local races with higher-profile federal and statewide contests that drive increased turnout.  

Civic groups are upping the ante to pressure Hochul to sign a law to move most town and county elections to even-numbered years, planning to send letters and hold events about the bill next week after the Thanksgiving holiday.

"In a democracy, a representative democracy, you want to have the biggest turnout possible," NYPIRG's Executive Director Blair Horner said. "We think it's easier for voters to remember that they're supposed to go to the polling place, particularly when there's a high-profile election."

Presidential election years show an 18% increase in voter turnout, according to the Pew Research Center. Gubernatorial races net the second-highest participation from voters.

"There's been a lot of noise, a lot of political B.S. from partisans that are looking to protect their little fiefdoms and the status quo," bill sponsor Sen. James Skoufis said Wednesday. "The question I pose to them are: 'Why are you so afraid of more people voting in your elections?

"...These folks are twisting themselves in knots trying to fabricate excuses to oppose this bill because they're afraid of higher turnout and potentially what that could mean to them," the senator added.

Lawmakers like Skoufis, who got the bill over the finish line this session, argue fewer elections would save taxpayer dollars over time, but don't have an estimated figure.

But Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties, says most county leaders across the state aren't convinced.

He says national races will hog voters' and media attention from local contests, and that low voter turnout is the public's choice.

"I think we need to respect their choice, their decisions, and not change laws because people in the Capitol think that they have a better view on how to control their behavior," Acquario said. "People are motivated by their own behavior, by what their own values are, what matters to them [for] whether or not they'll go to a voting machine and cast a ballot."

If the bill is signed, the change would not apply to city or village elections, and for races for county clerk, sheriff, district attorneys, local judges and others protected in the state Constitution to be held in odd-numbered years.

Lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment to streamline elections in all localities.

"There's no conspiracy here that we left out cities," Skoufis said. "We're looking to change that, too."

Acquario is pushing for the constitutional amendment instead, which would be passed by two subsequent Legislatures before ultimately going before voters. 

"Let the people decide at the end of the day, about how their elections and what year their elections should be," he said.

But lawmakers passed the legislation intending to tackle the constitutional amendment later on, with early talks to draft and pass it next session.

Good-government groups support the bill headed for the governor's desk, as well as a larger constitutional change to maximize voter turnout in New York. 

"You can see how things play out and then adjust whatever makes sense for the future," Horner said.

Skoufis says he plans to stay at the forefront of the effort to draft the constitutional amendment and consolidate more elections in the state.

The legislation was prioritized first to make changes in certain localities to start streamlining elections, he said, because the amendment will take several years.

Hochul keeps her intent to sign or veto legislation close to the vest, but she has both publicly and privately indicated she supports more people voting in elections.

"And that's the crux of the argument here," Skoufis said. "She's been very clear in expressing a point of view that she wants more people participating in elections."

Skoufis is scheduled to hold a press conference in front of Hochul's New York City office with several civic and voting rights organizations to rally for the governor to sign the measure into law.

"I think it's a long overdue, fair conversation to have," he said.