If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware Election for mayor of New York and other city races taking place this year. However, you may be less familiar with the five possible amendments to the state constitution that are also being put to the vote.
Ballot questions include actions includes legislative reform, changes to electoral laws, environmental policy, and civil courts in New York City. All approved will take effect on January 1, 2022.
According to the political website Ballotpedia, New Yorkers approved 74 percent of state ballots from 1985 to 2020
Registered voters can consider proposals by casting ballots early voting, which lasts until Sunday or election day, Tuesday, Nov. 2 Elector poll locator has information on where and when to cast your vote.
Here is a summary of the five voting measures and what they mean. The full text of each is available at Electoral Council website.
1. Changes in the process of state transformation
This measure involves drawing up legislative maps, which is carried out every 10 years. Among other things, it would limit the number of state senators to 63, require all New Yorkers to be counted in the U.S. census regardless of their citizenship status, and count imprisoned people in their last place of residence rather than where they are detained.
Michael Li, a senior adviser at the Brennan University Justice Center in New York City, said maintaining the existing number of state senators is essential to prevent gerrymandering, a practice of manipulating districts in Congress for political gain. Mr Li said a freeze in numbers would prevent the emergence of new districts that could be used for partisan purposes.
The measure would also abandon the current requirement that two-thirds of state legislators must agree to the adoption of transformation plans in favor of a simple majority in both the Assembly and the Senate.
Opponents of the proposal, including the League of Voters in New York State, focused on this point, arguing that allowing a simple majority to make such decisions could reduce the voting power of a minority party.
“It doesn’t give other clients a fair chance to have any say in the process,” said Jennifer Wilson, the group’s deputy director.
Mr. Li argued that it is difficult to say with certainty whether the new district maps would be better or worse for minority parties because the process is complicated.
“We’ll see how this new system works,” he said. “Maybe New York will need more reforms after we see what the maps look like.”
2. Modification of environmental rights
This measure would give New Yorkers a constitutional right to clean air, water and a “healthy environment”. The language of the proposal is unclear as to what a “healthy environment” is or how the standard would be legally enforced.
Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, said the measure is especially important for black and brown communities because they have disproportionate levels of pollution.
“We cannot exercise our right to freedom of speech if we have trouble breathing,” Mr Bautista said. “If you want to have the right to speak, you have the right to breathe. It has long been a time-consuming and welcome addition to the constitution. “
Critics of the measure cited its broad language as a concern, arguing that the lack of specificity could lead to unnecessary lawsuits. State Senator Dan Stec, a Republican representing the North Country region, said in a statement that the proposal would impose the burden of enforcement on the courts.
“Businesses, including farms, are very concerned about what this will mean if it is adopted, especially at a time of extreme challenges and uncertainty due to Covid-19,” Stec said. “We have a duty to the voters to offer them at least something more clearly defined.”
But environmentalists say the text of the proposal poses a risk only to those who know they may be polluting the environment.
3. Pressure to allow voters to register on the same day
The measure, one of two ballot papers related to the right to vote, would remove a rule requiring voters to register at least 10 days before the election.
If the measure were taken, it would allow national legislators to accept voter registration on the same day, as many as 20 already got it.
The measure would be especially beneficial for voters who engage in local politics only late in the election cycle, said Jan Combopiano, senior political director for the Brooklyn Voters’ Union.
“People who get active and take an interest in elections late in the game are really hurt, and there’s no reason to punish these people,” she said. “They weren’t paying attention until maybe last month – it’s like human nature.”
4. Facilitating absentee voting
Another proposed change to the voting procedure would delete the requirement for those requesting absentee ballots to explain why they are doing so.
Under current law, postal ballots are only allowed for voters who expect to be absent on election day, or have an illness or disability that prevents them from voting in person.
Last year, the coronavirus pandemic increased the number of votes for absence; Governor Andrew M. Cuomo automatically issued an executive order provide all New Yorkers with absentee ballots.
Ms Combopiano said that, if adopted, both voting-related measures would increase voter turnout, as it would make it easier to cast ballots. Extending access to absentee voting would make it easier for New Yorkers to take their time and make more informed decisions, she said.
5. Changes in Civil Courts in New York
This measure would double the monetary limit for claims filed in civil courts in New York to $ 50,000 from $ 25,000. This would allow courts to hear multiple small claims, thus reducing the burden of such lawsuits for the country’s Supreme Court.
Theoretically, the measure should enable people to resolve disputes legally faster, easier and cheaper.
While the change is likely to increase the efficiency of resolving lawsuits, it could also increase the workload of city civil courts, which already have no staff, said Sidney Cherubin, director of legal services at the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project.
If the measure is taken, he said, the state should help civil courts deal with the likely increase in cases, perhaps by hiring more judges or increasing funding for the system.
“We expect a faster solution for litigants,” Mr. Cherubin said. He added: “It won’t solve all the problems, but it will take us a step in the right direction.”