State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) on Wednesday urged voters to get educated about five ballot proposals they are being asked to weigh in on for the Nov. 2 citywide general election.
Meanwhile, the good-government watchdog group Citizens Union endorsed four of the five measures, giving a thumbs down to the first proposal on the ballot, which they argue could create a partisan redistricting commission.
“These ballot proposals are very important as they will shape the way we vote, the district lines, how the City Civil Court operates, and our relationship to the environment,” Addabbo said. “I’ve had some constituents who received their absentee ballots come to my office asking about these proposals and what they mean. I believe it is vital that voters know and understand what they are being asked to vote on.”
The first ballot proposal relates to Redistricting. This proposal is a constitutional amendment that would freeze the number of state Senators at 63. It also looks to amend the process for the counting of New York State’s population, delete certain provisions that violate the United States Constitution, amends the procedures for appointing co-directors of redistricting commission, and amend the procedure for determining congressional and state legislative lines.
This means that incarcerated individuals would be counted at the residence where they last resided, for the purpose of redistricting Native Americans and non-citizens would be counted for the NY Census if the Federal Census does not count them.
Citizens Union recommends a no vote on Question 1, noting it would make changes to the redistricting process in New York State, just weeks before the constitutional deadline for drawing new legislative boundaries. This amendment contains a number of provisions, but Citizens Union is most concerned that it would remove the protections that ensure no one political party could dominate the redistricting process.
By lowering the needed majority and changing voting procedures to approve new maps, the amendment effectively cuts off the minority party from having any influence on the redistricting process, Citizens Union argues.
“For generations, New York’s redistricting process had been controlled by the party in power. Voters rejected this brazen partisanship in 2014 when they voted to create an Independent Redistricting Commission. While Question 1 contains some positive provisions, we feel as though it clears a pathway for the legislature to reclaim influence over redistricting so they can draw lines to protect incumbents and strip the minority party’s power. Voters should vote no on Question 1,” said Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union.
The second proposal would establish a person’s right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment. It would require that state and local governments and businesses consider the environmental impacts of decision-making policies. Currently, 43 states have some form of environmental consideration in their state constitutions, but New York would become the third state to consider a clean environment a civil right.
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on this proposal.
Questions 3 and 4 deal with current voting laws. The third proposal looks to allow the State Legislature to enact laws allowing a citizen to register to vote less than 10 days before an election. As of right now, 20 other states allow for same-day voter registration.
The fourth ballot proposal would delete the absentee ballot requirement that a voter is unable to appear at the polls if absent from the country, or due to an illness or disability. This means that any qualified voter could request an absentee ballot for a Primary or General Election with no reason required. Currently, 34 states and Washington D.C. do not require reasons to request an absentee ballot.
“For too long, New York State had regressive voting laws that depressed voter participation. Citizens Union believes that our democracy is at its strongest when more of us are participating. That is why we have long advocated for reforms like same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting which make it easier for more New Yorkers to vote. These reforms will be a boon to democracy in New York, and we encourage voters to vote yes on Questions 3 and 4,” Gotbaum said.
The final proposal looks to increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000. The current limit for the NYC Civil Court is $25,000, and it was last changed in 1983.
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on this question, noting the increase is reasonable, amounting to less than the rate of inflation over the past four decades. It will also reduce the backlog of cases before the State Supreme Court.
As for Addabbo’s view on the proposals, the lawmaker thinks what’s more important than his opinion is that voters be educated on them before entering the voting booth and being blindsided by them.
“If you need more information about these proposals, or want to know my stance on any of them as a State Senator, please call my office at 718-738-1111. Be sure to do your research, consider each ballot proposal and vote on these important issues this November,” Addabbo said.