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NY’ers to decide on making voting easier, redistricting changes

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 5:29 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - When you go to vote Tuesday, don’t forget to flip your ballot over.

On the back are five propositions for you to vote on - and three of them directly affect voting and politics in New York.

One proposition (Number 3) would make it possible for New York to have “same day registration,” in which someone could register to vote and then vote on the same day.

Another (Number 4) would allow you to vote by mail without having to give a reason why you can’t vote in person. It’s known as “no excuse” absentee voting.

A third, (Number 1) would make several changes to New York’s redistricting process.

In general, reform groups support the changes. The Republican and Conservative parties do not.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have “same day” registration. Thirty four states and the District of Columbia have “no excuse” absentee voting.

“We know that it’s very popular with voters, and we know that it will be used if our unnecessary bureaucratic objections to absentee voting are removed from our constitution,” said Susan Lerner, President of Common Cause, New York.

But Republicans argue same day registration and no excuse absentee voting will together increase the chance of election fraud. Besides, they say, there’s no problem to begin with.

“I voted absentee many, many times and it was never an issue.,” said Will Barclay, Republican Assembly member from Pulaski and leader of the Republican minority in the Assembly.

“It was marked down that I was out of town on election day for business, and it’s not that onerous. I’m not sure what problem they’re trying to solve.”

The problem, supporters of Propositions 3 and 4 say, is voter participation - or the lack thereof.

“New York still has below the national average voter participation rate. So it’s not like it isn’t broke. It is broke - and there are things that can be done through law and changes to the constitution,” Blair Horner from the New York Public Interest Research Group told 7 News.

Proposition 1 is mostly an assortment of changes to how New York does redistricting. Redistricting is the process of redrawing the political lines for each state Assembly and Senate district. Redistricting has a huge influence over who represents you, and over which political party controls the state legislature.

The proposition includes things like guaranteeing all people - even if they’re not citizens - are counted in redistricting; changing various voting requirements for the state legislature and the independent commission which has the job of drawing the new lines; setting the number of state senators at 63.

Republicans say the changes, while highly technical on the surface, are a Democrat grab for even more power.

“Apparently, super majorities in the state senate and assembly just aren’t enough for them. They want to control things in perpetuity,” said NIck Langworthy, state Republican Chairman, during a stopover in Watertown Thursday.

“I mean, you realize the Democrats are gonna try to create more Democrat seats - and take away the voices of communities like Jefferson County,” he said.

But supporters of Proposition 1 say it will do the exact opposite: it will fix problems with the state’s current redistricting process, and keep the political parties from dominating the process.

“The voters will decide who is in control of the houses of the legislature. That’s why we have elections, and that’s why we need a better redistricting process,” said Lerner from Common Cause.

The other two propositions you’ll see Tuesday are:

- Proposition 5, which deals with New York City’s courts and does not concern the north country.

- Proposition 2, which would explicitly guarantee a clean environment, as a right in the state constitution.

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