Those of us who remember old 45-rpm records know that sometimes, the best stuff was on the flip side.
That might be the case for most New Yorkers heading to the polls on Nov. 2.
This year’s ballot in many communities contains contested races for local government positions like town supervisor, mayor, council seats and town justices. Those races appear on the front side of your ballot. And they’re certainly important.
But many people fail to flip over the ballot. And this year, that could be a mistake.
On the other side of the candidate portion of the ballot, voters this year will see five statewide propositions that could have a long-term and significant impact on your voting rights and the environment. Three are discussed below.
Voters shouldn’t take them for granted or fail to cast a vote.
Before you head to the polls, head to the state Board of Elections website or google some articles on the propositions to educate yourself about them.
Then when you get to the polls, remember to flip your ballot over and cast your vote on these vital proposals.
Here are the recommendations of The Gazette’s Editorial Board.
We hope you’ll use them as a tool to help guide you in your decision-making.
Proposal One: Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process
Gazette recommendation: Vote No.
This proposal is a complex, multifaceted amendment relating to the drawing of district lines for congressional and state legislative elections.
Political parties with power to draw the boundaries do so to make it easier for their party’s candidates to win and more difficult for the minority party — a process known as gerrymandering. In an ideal world, these lines would be drawn by an independent entity without consideration for political outcomes. But we don’t live in an ideal world. This legislation goes too far to place power in the hands of the minority party, which could work to the detriment of voters in upstate legislative and congressional districts. One element would prevent the minority party, in New York’s case Republicans, from having input into the final proposed district maps. It changes the voting rules to make it easier for the majority party to get its way and significantly reduces the role of the independent redistricting commission in the determination of district boundaries. Among the ways it will hurt upstate districts is by changing the law that requires prison inmates to be counted for census purposes in the community where they’re incarcerated. It would instead count them as being from their home community, which would add populations and power to downstate districts. This ignores the historical nature of counting citizens where they spend the majority of their time sleeping and living. Many prisoners would be unable to provide a permanent home address outside of the prison, leading to inconsistency and fraud. Changing the existing practice is a blatant attempt to shift population to favor downstate districts and reduce representation for upstate communities where prisoners actually live. This proposal is a politically motivated ploy to give undue power to the majority party at the exclusion of others. Voters should vote no.
Proposal Two: Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment
Gazette recommendation: Vote No.
This proposal would establish the right of each person to clean air and water in a healthful environment. On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable idea. Why shouldn’t New Yorkers have a right to clean air and water? Who would vote against that? The devil with this proposal is in the details, or lack thereof.
First off, how does one enforce such a right? Only two states have such a provision in their constitution, with good reason. With such vague language, it would open up the door to potential widespread litigation. Challenges would be open to a vast degree of interpretation of the courts, potentially leading to varied and inconsistent rulings. Those rulings could include the courts mandating changes to business operations and infrastructure outside the legislative propcess. And it could lead to frivolous lawsuits against companies over environmental issues as a tactic to tie them up in courts. It also could place undue pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation or approve funding without full consideration of the impacts on business, residents, taxes or the environment. New York has very vigorous, enforceable environmental laws, and lawmakers could strengthen them further through legislation and other policy changes without this amendment complicating the legal landscape. While we all have a right to expect clean air and water, we can get that better through laws and regulations rather than generic platitudes. We urge voters to vote no on this proposal.
Proposal Three: Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement.
Gazette Recommendation: Vote Yes.
Many people are prohibited from voting because they fail to register before the state’s 10-day deadline. This often affects people who move to a new location and don’t realize they need to register until it’s too late. This change would eliminate the 10-day limit and could potentially lead to same-day voter registration — although that’s not what automatically would happen if this proposal were to pass. This change would only empower the Legislature to set a registration deadline closer to the election. Allowing people to vote on the same day as the election has grown in popularity, with about 20 states and the District of Columbia allowing voters to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time. But it’s also raised concerns among some who fear it would allow people to register and vote in multiple places, a form of voter fraud. The way states prevent fraud is by requiring proof of identity and residency when registering on Election Day, or by allowing voters to cast provisional ballots on Election Day, with verification of identity and residence taking place later when state officials can review a registration, before the vote is actually counted. States with e-poll registration books and statewide systems allowing real-time registration checks can verify eligibility on the spot. State lawmakers and elections officials should work to improve our electronic registration system before actually moving the registration deadline back. They should also use the opportunity of this constitutional change to make rules and enact safeguards to ensure the integrity of elections while allowing voters to register on or closer to Election Day. Voters should give them this opportunity by voting yes on this proposal.
These ballot propositions are too important to ignore. When you cast your ballot this year, remember to fill out both sides.
Our recommendations for Proposals Four and Five appear in Monday’s Gazette. Read them by clicking here.