New York City is not just choosing a new mayor in November. All New York voters will decide the fate of five proposed constitutional amendments on the General Election Ballot on November 2. New York is 1 of 24 states where only legislators can initiate a ballot proposal. Before getting on the ballot, proposals must be approved by both houses of the legislature, then voted on again in both chambers after the Assembly and Senate have gone through one election cycle. New York voters will have their final say on the ballot measures in November and, if approved, they will go into effect on January 1, 2022. These proposed amendments are great in scope, dealing with elections, redistricting, the environment, and the courts. Of particular concern are three of the proposed amendments that seek to enshrine Democrats’ political advantage in the state of New York.
1. Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process – OPPOSE
New Yorkers will decide whether to amend the apportionment and redistricting process in November. States must redraw the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts to reflect population changes every decade following the U.S. Census. In New York State, the proposed amendment would count incarcerated individuals in their last place of residence instead of where they are incarcerated, and it would require the state to count all residents in districts even if they are not U.S. citizens. The proposed amendment would also change the approval process of legislative district lines for New York’s House of Representatives, State Senate, and State Assembly. In 2014, a state constitutional amendment created a 10-member, so-called Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw district lines which would require the approval of the Legislature after a series of public hearings alongside the approval from seven members of the commission, including appointees from each majority and minority legislative leader. The proposed amendment would still require the approval of at least 7 members of the Commission, but it would get rid of the requirement that they are supported by appointees of each legislative leader. In short, this proposed amendment would make it easier to bypass the minority party in drawing new district lines.
The New York Young Republican Club adamantly opposes what can only be called a redistricting power grab by New York state Democrats. Self-interested politicians should not decide the conditions under which they are elected. Furthermore, the 2020 proposed constitutional amendments would make it even more difficult for Republicans to retain much control. In the past, Republicans have increased their number of seats in the New York State Senate by appropriately counting New Yorkers from downstate imprisoned in GOP-dominated rural areas. While inmates of the New York Department of Corrections may declare their official residence in other counties or even other states, their physical presence within upstate prisons is, and should remain, the determining factor for government resources and redistricting. Other changes would undo two provisions of the original 2014 amendment that were designed to protect the interests of minority parties in both houses. Democrats now hold a supermajority in both the Senate and Assembly and will inevitably be able to control the outcome of redistricting under the new provisions.
2. Right to Clean Air and Water – OPPOSE
New Yorkers will be asked to consider amending the New York State Constitution’s Bill of Rights to include a guarantee to “clean air and water” in November. The amendment explicitly calls for the “right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” Including such an ambiguous amendment will undoubtedly create confusion and its implications will be subject to interpretation in the courts. New York has the country’s highest annual per-household lawsuit costs, and if the Green Amendment is approved, it will only make matters worse by creating an explosion of litigation that would have little impact on the environment. Additionally, costs of environmental compliance are already unnecessarily high. Passing this proposal would broaden state and city regulators’ responsibilities and operational framework, leading to even higher costs which ultimately would lead to a mass exodus of businesses from New York State. New York’s regulatory system is already both inefficient and ineffective. In 2019, New York City Council passed Local Law 97, an ordinance designed to reduce the city’s carbon emissions. This ordinance, however, has had little impact on the environment while imposing heavy costs on landlords and developers, thus driving up housing costs. Perhaps even more importantly, this vague grant of a “right” to environmental regulators, rather than common citizens, will certainly open a door to rampant abuse of power. New Yorkers can expect soon to see their individual sovereignty and privacy evaporate as politicians completely removed from their everyday lives micromanage citizens to “protect” their “healthful environment.”
3. Same-Day Voter Registration: OPPOSE
As part of the Democrats’ current crusade to promote supposed “voting rights”, the overwhelmingly blue state legislature is seeking to amend the constitution of New York by removing a requirement for voters to be registered at least 10 days before an election. Without such a restriction, lawmakers would be free to implement a same-day registration process statewide, further complicating an already suspect election system. Far from achieving any semblance of improved access to the ballot box, a same-day registration option would only result in additional confusion and chaos for strained poll workers, redirecting Election Day resources away from existing registered voters, and increasing wait times for everyone. While the New York Young Republican Club firmly believes that eligible citizens should exercise their right to participate in our representative government at every opportunity, we also believe in personal accountability and the consequences of actions. Informed and responsible residents of the state of New York have ample opportunity to register to vote in a number of different ways well ahead of the existing 10-day cut-off. This brief and bearable buffer not only protects the validity of voter registrations, but also helps polling places to prepare for potential turnout, and prevents the possibility of literal last-minute “new” voters swaying results after early projections are publicized. Furthermore, the current deadline allows for the necessary time to verify addresses and voting districts, ensuring that only those citizens directly governed by elected officials are casting ballots in the appropriate races. The New York Young Republican Club urges all New Yorkers to vote NO on Proposal 3 to preserve the integrity of elections within the Empire State.
4. No-Excuse Absentee Voting – OPPOSE
New York state’s Constitution currently allows voters requesting an absentee ballot to provide an excuse for their inability to vote at their designated polling place. First and foremost, proponents of no-excuse absentee voting claim that the measure would increase voter turnout, which has proven not to be the case in a meaningful way. More importantly, voter fraud rarely occurs at the polls, instead of occurring through absentee ballots. The vast majority of voter fraud prosecutions involve absentee ballots that were illegally cast. For this reason, most other developed nations restrict or totally prohibit in-country postal voting, meaning that New York’s permissions already constitute an anomaly. Under a no-excuse system, there is no way to guarantee the applicant is voting at the ballot. Eliminating the last safeguard for absentee voting, namely providing an excuse, is bound to exacerbate the issue of voting fraud. In early July, the New York City Board of Elections acknowledged a discrepancy in the calculation of ranked-choice votes, showing that over 100,000 test votes were added to the count. New Yorkers have long endured the incompetence of the city’s Board of Elections. We can only imagine how many more election-related issues will arise if New York decides to implement no-excuse absentee voting when the current system for processing absentee ballots can barely handle the increase in volume under a no-excuse system. The no-excuse absentee voting option would strain the outdated, inefficient, and manual process for mailing, accounting for, and counting absentee ballots. In 2020, New York waived absentee voting requirements because of the pandemic resulting in local boards of elections having to deal with record numbers of paper absentee ballots which led to extraordinary delays in deciding election outcomes. Delaying election outcomes will add to public suspicions about the validity of elections.
5. Expanding the New York City Civil Court Jurisdiction – SUPPORT
This proposal would impact the bloated dockets of the New York Supreme Court by expanding the jurisdiction of New York City’s civil court. The New York Young Republican Club does not oppose this amendment, as this is not the first time New York City’s civil court has been expanded. However, we are extremely disappointed with New York’s imposition of draconian coronavirus restrictions during much of the pandemic. These restrictions have led to a backlog of cases in New York courts and many state district attorneys say they do not expect to be caught up with cases for years. Coronavirus restrictions have slowed civil lawsuit settlements and President Biden’s eviction moratorium has led a large number of landlords to find a way around the housing court backlog by pursuing non-paying tenants in civil court. We hope that expanding New York City’s civil court’s jurisdiction will reduce the existing court backlogs and that the court system will resolve these pressing cases in a timely manner.