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There are five proposals to amend the New York State Constitution on the ballot this year.
Proposal 1: Amending the Redistricting Process
This important item involves the mapmaking or redistricting for legislators and members of Congress. The state legislature adopts these new maps every ten years, after the U.S. Census. The process is very technical, but it can be very controversial—with one party or the other drawing maps to their advantage. As a result, there have been recent attempts to take the party politics out of mapmaking. In New York, that has led to the creation of a redistricting commission made up of members of both parties.
This constitutional change would do the following:
It would freeze the number of New York State senators at 63. Previously, legislators could add seats for political advantage. This would end that possibility.
It would count state prisoners at their prior home addresses instead of the prison where they are being held. Also, people would be counted even if they are not citizens. This is already done, but this practice would be enshrined in the constitution.
It would change the rules for the commission that prepares maps for the legislature. Now the votes from the commission must come from both major parties. This change would allow a majority of votes from the commission to be from any party.
This part would allow the legislature to approve the commission plans by a majority vote no matter which party or parties control the legislature.
The redistricting commission could select Executive Directors of any political party.
The first maps proposed by the commission would have to be submitted earlier to the legislature, in this case by January 1, 2022.
Proposal 2: Establishing Environmental Rights
This item would add to the right for each New Yorker to have clean air and water and a healthy environment.
If these rights are added to state’s bill of rights in the constitution, lawmakers would have to consider the impact on their decisions would have on the environment.
New Yorkers could sue if they believe their rights to clean air and water or a healthful environment are being violated.
Proposal 3: Allowing Same-Day Voter Registration
This change would allow the legislature to pass laws allowing more time for people to register to vote, including on election day. The state constitution now requires voter registration at least ten days before the election. This item would allow the legislature to change that.
Proposal 4: Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Voting
This change would allow the legislature to pass laws concerning absentee ballots. New York’s constitution requires voters to affirm that they need an absentee ballot because they will be out of town for the election or they are ill or physically disabled. If this item passes, legislators would be allowed to pass laws allowing voters to get absentee ballots without specifying the reason.
Proposal 5: Increasing the NYC Civil Court Jurisdiction
This change would allow New York City’s Civil Court to hear and decide on claims up to $50,000. At present, the court could not deal with cases involving claims over $25,000. This limit was last raised in 1983.