Editorial Board Memo: Vote Yes on Ballot Proposals 1, 3, 4

NEW YORK, NY (10/12/2021) (readMedia)-- To: Editorial Boards

From: Yes on 1, 3, 4 Coalition

Subject: Yes on 1, 3, 4 for a stronger democracy

While other states are aggressively restricting access to the ballot and gerrymandering districts, New Yorkers have the opportunity to expand voting rights and enact a better redistricting process. Proposals 1, 3, and 4 will strengthen democracy in New York by enshrining certain rights and rules into the constitution, therefore protecting the state from federal or legal attacks.

YES on 1 - Districts that put New Yorkers before politicians

In 2014, New York voters approved a first step toward a better redistricting process by setting uniform criteria for drawing political districts. With Proposal 1, voters can take it further by enshrining important provisions in the state constitution that will protect New Yorkers from politicians looking to roll democracy back. Proposal 1 will guarantee that political districts include all residents regardless of citizenship status, ban prison-based gerrymandering, reduce the ability of political parties to manipulate the mapmaking process, ensure there's a workable timeline for maps in 2022 and beyond, and freeze the number of State Senators at 63. Proposal 1's several important provisions will result in districts that put New Yorkers before politicians.

As originally intended in the U.S. Constitution, Proposal 1 will require that all New York residents regardless of citizenship status, be counted in the Census for the purposes of redistricting. While this is current practice in New York, this provision will clarify ambiguous language in the state constitution that could be interpreted in the future to draw district lines that exclude noncitizens. Further, it will strengthen the state constitution by requiring New York State to conduct its own census of all residents if the U.S. Census is incomplete.

Similarly, while prison-based gerrymandering is barred by state law, Proposal 1 will codify this prohibition. Counting incarcerated people where they are imprisoned rather than where they will next vote is an anti-democratic tactic that turns incarcerated people into political pawns for purposes of padding districts. Enshrining this ban in the state constitution is an important step toward a stronger and more fair democracy in New York.

Freezing the number of State Senators before the next redistricting process is crucial, as the Legislature has decided in the last 3 redistricting cycles to change the number of senators for partisan advantage. Without capping the number of State Senators at 63, the party in control could add an extra district and make it easier to gerrymander to their advantage.

Because New York's primaries were moved from September to June, if Proposal 1 does not pass, the timeline for finalizing maps will be out of sync with the election cycle. The maps wouldn't be finalized before candidates decide to run and start circulating nominating positions in 2022.

Proposal 1 includes measures that will result in fairer districts that accurately reflect New York and don't diminish any community's political power. It will remove the block-on-border requirement for Senate districts, which favors towns over cities by requiring that towns, but not cities, be placed in a single district rather than divided up.

Finally, Proposal 1 eliminates the shifting voting standards for map approval based solely on election outcomes and replaces them with one clear, unchanging standard. It also gets rid of the need for the Independent Redistricting Comission's co-executive directors to represent each party, in favor of co-executive directors elected by a majority vote of the bipartisan commission. Reducing partisanship within the commission through this measure will not only simplify the commission's process, but reduce the State Legislature's control over the map making process and minimize partisan bias.

YES on 3 - No more voter registration deadlines

The most reliable way to increase voter turnout is with a combination of early voting and eliminating the unfair and unnecessary disenfranchisement that is caused by arbitrary voter registration deadlines. New York already has early voting, so now it's time to eliminate voter registration deadlines and move one step closer to joining the 20 states and Washington, D.C. that already have same-day voter registration.

New York has two different voter registration deadlines - one is the 10 day cutoff in the state constitution that Proposal 3 would eliminate, and the other is the 25 day cutoff that is part of state law. The first step to doing away with voter registration deadlines and ultimately paving the way for implementing same-day voter registration in New York is passing Proposal 3, which will eliminate the 10 day cutoff for voter registration in the state constitution.

YES on 4 - Vote absentee, no excuse needed

The right to vote is an indispensable part of a healthy democracy, but New York has some of the most restrictive absentee voting laws in the country. In New York State the only voters who can request absentee ballots are: (1) those who expect to be out of town on Election Day, and (2) those who are unable to appear at their polling place because of illness or physical disability. Before the absentee voting requirements were temporarily loosened due to the pandemic, only 3-5% of voters met these very limited eligibility requirements.

Not only has the pandemic shown that voters need more options - it proved that those options worked. Over 1 million New Yorkers cast their votes absentee in the 2020 election, and 34 states and Washington D.C. already have no-excuse absentee voting , with no evidence of fraud. This method is reliable and achievable. Proposal 4 would delete New York's narrow requirements from the state constitution and allow all New York voters to request an absentee ballot, no excuse needed.

Voters have the opportunity to expand voting rights. New Yorkers should vote yes on 4 to ensure that all voters have the opportunity to cast their vote absentee, and thus make voting more accessible and equitable.