Elections

New Yorkers Should Vote No on Proposals 1, 2, 3, and 4

A voter walks with her ballot during early voting in Brooklyn, N.Y., October 25, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

There are five statewide proposals on the New York ballot on Tuesday. Proposals 1, 3, and 4 represent efforts by the state’s progressive Democrats to change redistricting and voting in New York. New York voters should reject all three. For good measure, they should also vote down Proposal 2, which purports to create a state constitutional “right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment” that would be enforceable by “each person.”

Proposal 1 is a grab bag; the state elections board takes over 5,500 words just to describe and recite it, including a cap on the size of the state senate. It also permanently constitutionalizes two rules already enforced in the state that reinforce the power of New York City at the expense of upstate: counting illegal immigrants in apportioning state-assembly and state-senate districts and counting prison inmates — even ones serving life sentences — as residents of the last place they lived before arrest. Not only does this reward districts that produce a lot of criminals, at the expense of districts that are saddled with housing prisons, it also adds a cumbersome additional level of complexity to the apportionment process.

Proposal 1’s chief aim, however, is to help Democrats more aggressively gerrymander New York’s congressional and state legislative districts by rolling back some parts of a 2014 state constitutional amendment that created a redistricting commission. The thrust of the revision is to eliminate safeguards designed to require some level of bipartisan support for new maps. Self-styled “good government” groups are divided; the progressive-leaning Common Cause backs the proposal, while the League of Women Voters opposes it for watering down the 2014 amendment.

We are not proponents of taking redistricting away from state legislatures, but Proposal 1 illustrates the insincerity of Democratic complaints about gerrymandering. The state’s Republican voters should feel no obligation to make a partisan gerrymander easier for Democrats.

Proposal 3 would create same-day voter registration, eliminating the state’s longstanding rule that voters must be registered at least ten days before the election. Same-day registration degrades the capacity of states to keep the voter rolls accurate and ensure that voters are registered in the right place and have not already voted elsewhere in early voting. It also makes it easier to buy off marginal voters. It should be rejected.

Proposal 4 would make no-excuses mail-in voting permanent. This, again, belies two Democratic arguments: the claim for years before 2020 that voter identification aimed at the wrong problem because absentee ballots were the real source of voter fraud, and the claim in 2020 that mail-in balloting was just a temporary emergency measure. Moreover, given New York’s proven incompetence in counting ballots in a timely fashion, adding still more mail-in ballots will only make things worse.

Finally, while its topic is distinct from the other three, Proposal 2’s creation of vague new rights to a clean and “healthful” environment is a gift to lawyers and red tape and a further assault on development and energy in a state economy that is already stagnating in every area but Wall Street. Similar rules have been used in other states to attack fracking and other oil and gas development approved by the elected government. The last thing New York needs is more ways to file lawsuits to stop anything from being built or done.

In short, on Tuesday, New Yorkers should vote “no” early and often.

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