Ballot Proposals: On Voting, Redistricting & The Environment

Ballot propositions are often the last thing that voters read up on before heading to the polls, and they’re often worded in such a way that voters aren’t quite sure what it is they’re voting on.

This year, there are five propositions on East End ballots, mostly relating to amendments to the New York State Constitution involving redistricting, environmental justice and increasing the ease of voting.

Below is a summary of these propositions:

Proposal Number One: Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process

This proposal would amend the New York State Constitution to make changes to the redistricting process for state and congressional offices.

It would allow the state Redistricting Commission to appoint two co-executive directors by a simple majority vote, without consideration of the directors’ party affiliation — the law currently requires the co-executive directors be of different political parties. 

The proposal would also freeze the number of state senators at 63, require that state district lines be based on the total population of the state, including non-citizens and Native Americans, and that incarcerated people be counted in their last place of residence, not their place of incarceration. 

The proposal would also change the redistricting map approval process, requiring seven out of 10 commissioners to vote for it, after which it could be adopted by a simple majority in the state legislature. If seven of the commissioners do not vote to approve the maps, the map with the most votes must be sent to the legislature, which would need a 60 percent majority in favor to approve the maps. It would also require the plans be submitted to the legislature two months earlier than they are now.

The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, North Fork & Shelter Island, in their 2021 Voters Guide, says some benefits of this proposal are that it allows more people to be counted, even if the Federal Census fails to count residents adequately. But the proposal also “would unfairly empower the majority party by preventing the minority party from having input into the final proposed maps.”

Proposal Number Two: Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment

If you belong to any New York-based environmental groups, you’ve probably heard some buzz about this proposal, which would add “the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment” to the Bill of Rights in Article 1 of the state constitution. 

If adopted, the amendment would require state and local governments, and businesses, “to consider the environment and its citizens’ relationship to it in all decision-making,” according to the League of Women Voters. Advocates for the amendment say it will “create a mechanism for combatting environmental racism and rebalancing the inequities communities of color and low-income communities face from disproportionate exposure to pollution and other environment-harming practices.”

The League of Women Voters say one potential down side to the amendment is that its broad language could lead to frivolous lawsuits, and could require expensive changes to businesses.

Proposal Number Three: Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement

This proposal would amend the state constitution to allow citizens to register to vote less than ten days before an election.

If adopted, it would allow the state legislature to implement same-day voter registration, which is already in place in 20 other states. A potential downside, according to the LWV, is it could lead to difficulty determining how many ballots are needed at polling sites, or could lead to in-person election fraud.

Proposal Number Four: Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting

New York is one of the most strict states in the U.S. in terms of the excuses it usually allows for people to obtain absentee ballots — voters must attest that they will either be away from the county of their polling place on Election Day or will be unable to appear because of illness or physical disability. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia do not require an excuse to vote by absentee ballot. This issue has been on the front burner since the pandemic, when the state ruled that fear of catching Covid at the polls is currently a valid reason to use illness as an excuse for receiving an absentee ballot. On the down side, says the LWV, more absentee ballots could slow election results reporting, cost more money and could lead to absentee voter fraud and the loss of voter anonymity.

Proposal Number Five: Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court

This proposal would allow the New York City Civil Court to hear claims of up to $50,000, double the current claim cap of $25,000.

On the pro side, the proposal could reduce backlogs and delays at the New York Supreme Court, according to the LWV, but it could also increase the burden on the Civil Court, which hears landlord-tenant disputes and small claims.

For more information on these ballot propositions, visit the League of Women Voters’ 2021 Voters Guide.

East End Beacon

The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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