EDITORIAL: What’s with all these proposals?

WHEN THE POLLS OPEN in Columbia County—this Saturday in Hudson and Valatie for early voters; Tuesday, November 2 at community polling places—voters will not only elect a sheriff, some judges and a slate of local officials, we will be asked to support or oppose five statewide ballot proposals… if we remember to look at the the back of our ballot.

Statewide proposals are the way we amend the state constitution. The choices we have are Yes or No. It’s simple enough if we have some idea what the amendments are meant to do for us. So here’s a crash course on this batch of changes.

• Proposition One; “Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process”

Redistricting is the process of redrawing the lines of voting districts. That happens after each national census. It is supposed to create districts that make sense geographically and demographically. In practice it has led to gerrymandering and greater control by the party in power.

The last state redistricting plan failed. So once again the legislature has kicked the can to the voters. The proposal is not a new law; instead it amends the constitution in ways that establish how the redistricting process will function.

It’s a stretch to believe that laws stemming from this proposition will fix redistricting. But the alternative of no effort to salvage democratic standards from this corrupt process is likely to be far worse. It’s a genuine attempt to make redistricting more democratic.

Vote YES on Proposal One.

• Proposal Two: “Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment”

You mean we didn’t already have these rights?

Apparently not. It turns out that state government needs a statement of these rights in order to hold those who violate them accountable. So it’s not just lofty language with no substance.

Clean water? Ask our neighbors, the residents of Hoosick Falls and the Town of Nassau in Rensselaer County, about their poisoned groundwater. Or recall the region’s air quality alerts on thick summer days when breathing is dangerous.

These simple words underscore needs. Why would we not want them in our constitution?

Vote YES on Proposal Two.

Proposals Three and Four have similar goals. Each of them would do away with obstacles to voting.

• Proposition Three: “Eliminating Ten-Day Advance Voter Registration Requirement”

In the not-so-distant past New York State has had some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation… and still does. It begins with the barriers to voter registration. Right now. You must register 10 days before an election. Proposal Three would allow a citizen to register less than 10 days ahead. There’s no excuse for the 10-day barrier when there are so many tools for election officials to establish a voter’s eligibility.

• Proposal Four “Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting”

Absentee voting rules that require a voter to give an “excuse” for the right to vote as an absentee were relaxed temporarily during the pandemic but could be reinstated. Proposal Four would delete this ridiculous obstacle. An election is supposed to guarantee that the voters have a chance to make their choices known. What possible reason does government have in knowing your health status or where you plan to travel before you vote? As long as you get your ballot in on time, the board of elections has no need to know how you’re feeling when you cast your absentee vote.

On Proposal Three and Proposal Four vote YES.

• Proposal Five “Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court”

This is a legal housekeeping matter for the state judiciary. It would allow New York City civil courts to hear civil cases with claims up to $50,000 instead of the previous limit of $25,000.

The absence of any vocal protests or cheers from the legal profession suggests that it may eliminate a court case hurdle.

On Proposal Five vote YES.

Last week’s editorial discussed and urged passage of Proposition Six in the six towns around the county where there is a Proposal Six on the ballot.

Do it early or Election Day. Be prepared and cast your vote.

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