Ballot Proposals: Enhanced Voter Access, No; Environment, Yes

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Ballot proposals related to voting access fell early and they fell hard, often with over 60 percent of ballots cast in Suffolk County in opposition to loosening voter restrictions. The proposal related to the environment and the one related to courts in New York City passed. All five proposals were on ballots statewide.

The New York State Board of Elections posted unofficial results Tuesday night. Between 10 and 15 percent of the ballots cast left the proposal questions blank, meaning percentages of yes and no votes won’t add up to 100.

Proposal One was defeated, with 48.65 percent of voters or 1,516,586 ballot casters saying “no” to 38.52 percent or 1,201,010 state residents’ saying “yes.” It would have amended the state constitution as it pertains to legislative districts for congress and the state senate. It would have frozen the number of state senators at 63, and required that state assembly and senate district lines be based on the total population of the state. It required that all residents, including non-citizens and Native Americans be counted, even if the federal census failed to do so. For the purposes of redistricting, it mandated that incarcerated people be counted at their last residence, not where they are imprisoned.

The proposal was rebuked by opponents as susceptible to empowering whichever party is in the majority, and preventing the minority party from having input into final redistricting maps.

Proposal Two passed, garnering 60.5 percent of the vote in Suffolk County, and statewide as well. Approved, 1,902,745-858,604 staewide, according to the state BOE, it calls for amendment to the New York Constitution that would establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment. Supporters said the amendment would require state and local governments to consider the environment, and their residents’ relationship to the environment in decision making. They also felt it would provide a mechanism for combating environmental racism and the disproportionate exposure to pollution in low income communities.

Proposal Three called for the elimination of voter registration requirements that mandate a citizen be registered at least 10 days before an election failed. Over 68 percent of voters, 179,368 cast dissenting votes with 31.7 percent, or 83,401 voting in support across Suffolk County. Statewide, 51.4 percent opposed compared to 37.7 percent, or 1,606,209-1,178,600. For opponents, the potential for same day voting brings with it a greater potential for voter fraud, as a person could register, then vote at multiple sites. Same-day registration could mean logistical difficulties for election officials who would have to intuit how many ballots to have available at any given site.

Proposal Four, failed, again with 66.55 percent of the ballots — 174,354 — marked in opposition in Suffolk County. Statewide, 50.17 percent, or 1,566,981 voters said “no.” Thirty-three percent, 87,651, voted favorably on the proposal in Suffolk, with 38.66 percent offering assent statewide. That’s 1,566,981 against and 1,207,545 in favor across New York. The proposal was designed to change the rules surrounding absentee ballots. Currently, voters have to explain why they need to vote by absentee ballot. The Constitution restricts absentee voting to one of two scenarios: the person must expect to be out of their county of residence on Election Day, or they can’t get to their polling place due to illness or physical disability. The amendment would eliminate the need for an excuse, and enhance voter access. Opponents cited a potential for voter fraud and loss of anonymity. Reliance on absentee votes could slow down the process of deriving results and cost municipalities extra in printing and postage, said opponents. Finally, opponents worried about the loss of voting as a community experience.

Proposal Five passed by the closest proposition vote countywide — 53 percent to 46.9 percent, or 134,909-118,778. Statewide, the numbers ran 53.75 percent, or 1,674,249 ballots, to 31.75 percent or 988,249, with close to 15 percent of voters leaving the question blank. It increases the jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000, double its current jurisdictional limit. The goal of the move is to reduce backlogs and delays experienced by the New York State Supreme Court, and to adjust for inflation.

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