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Good Government Group Supports Measures Authorize Legislature to Pass Same-Day Voter Registration and No-Excuse Absentee Voting; Opposes Measure to Alter Redistricting Process

To Read About CU’s Positions, Click Here

New York, N.Y. (October 13, 2021) – Citizens Union Board Chair Randy Mastro and Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum today announced Citizens Union’s recommendations on five proposals New York State voters will see on their ballots in this fall’s election. 

After rigorously evaluating each proposal, Citizens Union recommends that voters support questions 2, 3, 4 and 5, and oppose question 1. The proposals were referred to the ballot by the State Legislature and cover a wide variety of issues including redistricting, elections and voting, the environment and the judiciary. 

“This fall, voters across the state will have an opportunity to vote on important ballot proposals, in addition to voting for candidates for local office. Citizens Union has taken a position on all five proposals that will appear on the ballot, and we encourage all New Yorkers to examine these proposals and vote,” said Randy Mastro, Board Chair of Citizens Union.

Question 1:
Citizens Union recommends a no vote on Question 1, which would make changes to the redistricting process in New York State, just weeks before the constitutional deadline for drawing new legislative boundaries. This amendment contains a number of provisions, but Citizens Union is most concerned that it would remove the protections that ensure no one political party could dominate the redistricting process. 

By lowering the needed majority and changing voting procedures to approve new maps, the amendment effectively cuts off the minority party from having any influence on the redistricting process.  The amendment also would allow the legislature to take over map-drawing on January 1st if the Independent Redistricting Commission does not approve a plan by then, virtually inviting the current commission not to be decisive in the meantime. The proposal would come into effect in the midst of redistricting, creating confusion and potentially limiting public input.

“For generations, New York’s redistricting process had been controlled by the party in power. Voters rejected this brazen partisanship in 2014 when they voted to create an Independent Redistricting Commission. While Question 1 contains some positive provisions, we feel as though it clears a pathway for the legislature to reclaim influence over redistricting so they can draw lines to protect incumbents and strip the minority party’s power. Voters should vote no on Question 1,” said Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union. 

Question 2:
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 2, which would create a state constitutional right to clean air, clean water and a healthful environment.  The proposed amendment would allow for lawsuits to secure and protect that right. Citizens Union believes that establishing this right in the constitution provides protection against both current and not yet anticipated environmental degradation, and particularly would protect communities that have historically borne the brunt of pollution. 

Citizens Union makes this recommendation with the understanding that courts will construe the amendment as self-executing against the government, but not against private parties.  In addition, our approval comes with the understanding that the amendment would not authorize claims for damages against the government, and will be interpreted with due regard for the role of the legislative and executive branches in developing and implementing environmental policy.  

Questions 3 and 4:
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on questions 3 and 4. Question 3 would eliminate the constitutional provision requiring voters be registered to vote ten days before the election, and authorize the state legislature to pass a law for same-day voter registration. Question 4 would eliminate the requirement that voters provide a reason for voting absentee, and authorize the state legislature to pass a law for no-excuse absentee voting. Citizens Union has long advocated for these reforms, which have boosted voter turnout in states where they have been implemented. 

“For too long, New York State had regressive voting laws that depressed voter participation. Citizens Union believes that our democracy is at its strongest when more of us are participating. That is why we have long advocated for reforms like same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting which make it easier for more New Yorkers to vote. These reforms will be a boon to democracy in New York, and we encourage voters to vote yes on Questions 3 and 4,” Gotbaum said. 

Question 5:
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 5, which would increase the New York City Civil Court’s  jurisdiction, allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000, instead of the current jurisdictional limit of $25,000. The jurisdictional limit of the New York City Civil Court was last raised in 1983, when a constitutional amendment changed it from $10,000 to $25,000 to adjust for inflation and reduce the backlog of the State Supreme Court. 

“After 40 years, a further adjustment of the jurisdictional ceiling is warranted to allow the Civil Court to continue to handle the types of matters for which it was originally designed,” Mastro said. “This proposed increase in jurisdiction is reasonable, amounting to less than the rate of inflation over the past four decades.” 

About Citizens Union 
For over 120 years, Citizens Union has been a force for transparency, accountability and ethics in New York’s City and State governments. A nonpartisan organization, some of our current initiatives include the election info hub ElectNYC.org, a new agenda for police accountability, and increasing civic engagement. Learn more at www.citizensunion.org.

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