A statewide ballot proposal shows how little faith the folks in Albany have in a system created several years ago to reform the redistricting process.
In 2014, voters approved the creation of the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission. The hope in adopting this method of drawing new districts is that it will reduce the likelihood of gerrymandering. Voting districts were previously drafting by legislators from whatever party held the majority at the state Capitol.
Just how “independent” this commission will be in drawing maps has yet to be determined. Eight of the 10 members were appointed by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. And the other two remaining members were named to the commission by those already on it.
In addition, the state Legislature can cast aside the congressional and state legislative maps proposed by the commission and draft its own. This will occur if lawmakers vote twice to reject the plans presented to them by commission members.
So there was a modicum of reform with the redistricting process. It was minor, but any change like this is a step in the right direction.
However, legislators are seeking to alter even this small alteration. A referendum proposal a state constitutional amendment will appear on Tuesday’s ballot.
To approve the map offered by the redistricting commission, lawmakers needed to get a vote of at least two-thirds of members of both chambers if one political party controls the Legislature. This makes it more likely that representatives of the opposing party will need to support the proposed map for it to pass.
Proposal No. 1 would change this to require only a simple majority. Democrats control the Assembly and Senate, and mandating a simple majority will give them the authority to approve maps that will keep them in power for at least the next decade. This is a bad plan, and we urge voters to reject it.
We also call on residents to oppose Proposal No. 2. It’s an astoundingly vague statement: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”
That sounds great, but what exactly does this mean? How will the executive branch use this amendment to go after parties it deems to be in violation of the newly revised state constitution? The Legislature should pass tough environmental laws with specifics about what is a violation and how to enforce these provisions.
Proposals Nos. 3 and 4 pertain to voting reform measures, and we encourage voters to support them.
No. 3 would remove a constitutional mandate stating people must register to vote at least 10 days before an election. Changing this would allow same-day registration, given legislators pass this at some point.
This is a sound idea. As long as New York residents can prove they’re qualified to vote, there’s no reason they should have to wait 10 days.
Proposal No. 4 is another step in the right direction. The constitution now compels voters to offer a valid excuse as to why they want an absentee ballot. This referendum would remove that directive, leaving people free to obtain absentee ballots for any reason they see fit.
These proposed amendments would alter the constitutional for both good and ill. Please understand what each states and consider the best course for New York.
Proposal No. 5 would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current jurisdictional limit of $25,000.
All five propositions can be read in detail at https://www.elections.ny.gov/2021BallotProposals.html and voters can cast their ballots in early voting until Sunday. Election Day is Nov. 2.