CAPITAL REGION — Local voters in Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie counties joined with the majority of statewide voters in rejecting three state ballot propositions pertaining to changing voting rights and redistricting rules on Tuesday.
Most of the county-level votes on the propositions were not close, with only voters in Albany County ever voting more than 40% approval for any of the three.
Locally the most popular of the three failed propositions, and the one with the least complicated provisions was Prop. 4, “Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting,” which would have deleted from state law the current requirement that an absentee voter must be unable to appear at the polls by reason of absence from the county or illness or physical disability. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of New York (LWVNY) endorsed Prop. 4.
“Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., do not require an excuse from those who wish to vote absentee or by mail,” reads one of the reasons the LWVNY supported the proposition.
The majority of voters in the counties of Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Montgomery, Fulton, and Schoharie all voted down Prop. 4 by the following percentages and total votes:
- Albany: 48.9% — No, 32,086 votes
- Schenectady: 55.38% — No, 15,959 votes
- Saratoga: 60.11% — No, 31,192 votes
- Montgomery: 72.71% — No, 5,919 votes
- Fulton: 73.68% — No, 6,744 votes
- Schoharie: 72.11% — No, 5,289 votes
The least popular of the propositions locally was Prop. 3, “Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement,” which only received 43.9% approval (28,779 votes) in Albany County and couldn’t crack 20% approval in Republican-dominated Fulton County where it only received 19.26% voter approval with 1,763 total yes-votes.
Probably the state proposition with the most far-reaching political implications on Tuesday was Prop. 1, “Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process.”
State Sen. James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, who had argued against the proposed amendments, issued this statement on his social media accounts Wednesday:
“We did it! Thank you to all of those who voted “No” on Prop. 1 — defeating this terrible ballot initiative and reminding the majorities in the state legislature that in a representative democracy elected officials don’t pick their voters, the voters pick them,” Tedisco wrote.
Prop. 1 would have changed how New York state redraws its congressional districts in the wake of the 2020 census, which will require the elimination of one of the state’s 27 congressional districts.
If it had passed, Prop. 1 would have done a long list of things, including freezing the total number of state senators at 63, allowing towns to be divided between different congressional districts and put in place a new requirement that state legislative districts be based on the total population of all residents within them, including Native Americans and non-citizens, even if for some reason they are not counted in the census.
Prop. 1 would have also codified into the state constitution an existing state law that requires prisoners to be counted as residents of the locations they were living before they were convicted of crimes that resulted in state prison sentences.
Perhaps most importantly, Prop. 1 would have also put in place a series of changes to the 2014 redistricting amendment approved by voters that requires a non-politician commission to draft new congressional maps after the U.S. census.
The 2014 redistricting amendment — which, with the failure of Prop. 1, remains law and will be used for the first time early next year — mandates that the legislature must consider and then reject two separate sets of commission-proposed plans before the legislature can attempt to amend the commission’s proposals, which it can only do with a two-thirds majority vote. The two-thirds majority requirement was triggered when both chambers of the legislature became controlled by the Democratic Party after the 2018 elections. Under the 2014 redistricting amendment, the legislature is also restricted in that they cannot change the independent commission’s proposal by more than 2% of any current congressional district’s population.
Prop. 1 had proposed reducing the two-thirds majority approval in both the state senate and assembly to instead a 60% majority vote.
The Democratic Party majority in the state Senate (43 Democrats to 20 Republicans) and in the state Assembly (105 Democrats to 43 Republicans) already controls more than two-thirds of the seats in both chambers, but the failure of Prop. 1 preserves more power in the congressional redistricting process for legislators in upstate New York, regardless of party affiliation.
It remains to be seen whether a two-thirds majority vote can be obtained for any new congressional map for New York state. After the 2010 Census, it took a federal court ruling on March 19, 2012, to draw new congressional maps.
While the League of Women Voters of New York (LWVNY) supported Prop. 3 and Prop. 4, the nonpartisan group opposed Prop. 1, publishing a list of “cons” against the proposal on its website, www.lwv.org.
“The proposed amendment would unfairly empower the majority party by preventing the minority party from having input into the final proposed maps,” reads one LWVNY statement against the proposition. “The amendment repeals the special legislative voting rules in place in case one party controls both legislative houses, which require plans to be approved by at least two-thirds of the members of each house. Instead, a simple majority will be needed to approve the commission’s plans, or a 60% majority if the commission is unable to obtain seven votes to approve a redistricting plan on time.”
These are the local unofficial county vote totals for Prop. 1:
- Albany: No, 50.17%, 32,890 votes — Yes, 43.24%, 28,348 votes
- Schenectady: No, 57.58%, 16,592 votes — Yes, 35.53%, 10,237 votes
- Saratoga: No, 61.9%, 32,115 votes — Yes, 32.51%, 16,867 votes
- Fulton: No, 74.75%, 6,842 votes — Yes, 20.76%, 1,900 votes
- Montgomery: No, 72.6%, 5,910 votes — Yes, 22.46%, 1,828 votes