Know before you vote: statewide ballot proposals

New Yorkers going to vote this fall already expect to check boxes for the mayoral and City Council races. However, they may not be as familiar with the five ballot proposals that have the potential to change the New York State Constitution.
Ballot proposals often fly under the radar, but they have the ability to create major changes. Take for example ranked-choice voting, which was approved via a New York City ballot question in 2019.
This year, New Yorkers should expect to see five statewide questions on the ballot.

Question 1: The Redistricting Process
After each census, district lines for federal and state elected offices are redrawn to account for changes in population. This proposal would reform the redistricting process.
Primarily, the proposal would freeze the number of State Senators at 63 to prevent any political party from adding more representatives through the redistricting process.
The ballot proposal would also make some changes to the census, including counting incarcerated individuals towards the population of their home address rather than their place of incarceration, as well as counting Native Americans and non-citizens in the state census, two groups currently excluded from the census.

Question 2: Environmental Rights
This proposed amendment to Article 1 of the New York Constitution would add an environmental bill of rights, establishing the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment.
If approved, the amendment would also allow New Yorkers to sue if they believe their rights to clean water, clean air, or a healthful environment are being violated.
Forty-three states have some form of environmental consideration in their constitutions, but New York would become the third state to consider a clean environment a civil right.

Question 3: Same-Day Voter Registration
This amendment would remove the current requirement that a citizen be registered to vote at least ten days before an election. If passed, it would allow state legislators to enact laws permitting a citizen to register to vote less than ten days before the election, so the proposal does not guarantee that new voting registration laws will be approved.
Currently, 20 other states have laws enabling same-day voter registration.

Question 4: No-Excuse Absentee Voting
This amendment would remove the current requirement that an absentee voter must be unable to appear at the polls by reason of absence from the county, illness, or physical disability.
New York voters are temporarily eligible to vote by mail due to the risk of COVID-19, but this amendment could permanently expand that eligibility. Like ballot question three, passing this proposal does not guarantee that new absentee voting laws will be approved.
Currently, 34 states and Washington D.C. do not require reasons to request an absentee ballot.

Question 5: New York City Civil Court Jurisdiction
This proposal would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000. The current limit for the NYC Civil Court is $25,000. Cases over that amount can only be heard by the New York State Supreme Court, an amount that was last changed in 1983.

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