Breaking down New York’s five ballot proposal questions before Election Day

New York Elections
woman votes on election day on upper west side

A child stands with their mother as she votes at Frank McCourt High School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK — After selecting their choice for New York City mayor, New Yorkers will have a few more decisions to make before casting their ballots Nov. 2.

Five ballot proposals are up for a vote during the general election, covering topics including representation in Albany and voter registration. All five ballot proposals come from Albany, where representatives in the House and Senate voted to include them on the final ballots.

Proposal 1 — Redistricting

The first proposal on New York’s ballot involves several different questions, all focused on how redistricting is handled in the state. Redistricting — or reshaping Congressional and state legislative districts — has an impact on future political representation in both Washington and Albany.

If this redistricting proposal passes, changes would be made to the state senate and so-called “prison gerrymandering.”

Proposal 1 seeks to cap the total number of New York state senators at 63, the current amount as of 2021.

The proposal would also require incarcerated people to be counted as residents of where they lived before going to prison, as opposed to where they are being detained. This could potentially take away from the population of upstate counties where prisons are often located and shift representation to downstate areas, including New York City.

Voters have to vote “yes” or “no” on the included policies as a unit.

Proposal 2 — Environmental Rights

The second proposal poses a simple yes-or-no question: Should New Yorkers have “a right to clean water, clean air and a healthful environment” included in the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights?

State Sen. Robert Jackson — whose district includes neighborhoods including Washington Heights, Inwood and parts of Harlem — sponsored the proposal in the Senate.

“This language will finally put in place safeguards that require the government to consider the environment and our relationship to the Earth in decision making,” he said. “If the government fails in that responsibility, New Yorkers will finally have the right to take legal action for a clean environment because it will be in the State Constitution.”

Proposal 3 and Proposal 4 — Elections and Voting

A “yes” vote on the third ballot proposal supports removing New York’s current window requiring voters to register at least 10 days before an election. If approved, the state legislature could pass a statute allowing voters to register closer to an election, including same-day registration.

If it’s approved, the fourth proposal would eliminate the state’s current absentee voting policy, which requires voters to have a “valid reason” for requesting an absentee ballot. Currently, state policy requires voters to be absent from the country, ill, or physically disabled in order to vote by absentee ballot.

All New Yorkers will be able to request absentee ballots for this year’s election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters are asked to list “temporary illness” as their reason.

Proposal 5 — Claim Limits for Civil Courts

This proposal would double the monetary claim limit in New York City’s civil courts to $50,000. If approved, the New York City Civil Court could hear cases currently handled by the State Supreme Court.

State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, who represents neighborhoods in the south and central Bronx, said the proposal would relieve higher courts and address backlogs in the state’s judicial system.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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