Nov. 2 ballot proposals guarantee clean air and water, change redistricting rules and make voting easier

One of five ballot proposals up for consideration this November 2 would eliminate the need for voters to explain why they want to vote using an absentee ballot. Another proposal would allow New Yorkers to register to vote on Election Day.

Five ballot proposals will be put before state voters on November 2, 2021 during the General Election.

The ballot proposals will address amending the apportionment and redistricting process, the constitutional rights to clean air and water, same-day voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and expanding the New York City Civil Court jurisdiction. 

The first ballot proposal proposes an amendment to sections 2, 4, 5, 5-a and 5-b of article III of the Constitution “that would freeze the number of state senators at 63, amend the process for the counting of the state’s population, delete certain provisions that violate the United States Constitution, repeal and amend certain requirements for the appointment of the co-executive directors of the redistricting commission and amend the manner of drawing district lines for congressional and state legislative offices,” according to the State Board of Elections.   

The first ballot proposal would freeze the number of state senators at the current number of 63. Currently, under the state Constitution, the number of senators was originally set at 50 and thereafter increased over time to 63.

It would also require that state Assembly and Senate district lines be based on the total population of the state, and require the state to count all residents, including non-citizens and Native Americans if the federal Census fails to include them.

Ballot proposal 1 would also provide for incarcerated people to be counted at their place of last residence, instead of at their place of incarceration, for the purpose of redistricting. This practice is already established by state statute for Senate and Assembly districts.

The second proposal is for the right to clean air and water as well as a healthy environment.

The purpose of this proposal is to protect public health and the environment by adding to the Bill of Rights in Article I of the New York Constitution that each person has the right to clean air and water. 

The constitutional right would allow for more legal options by communities adversely affected by air pollution and water contamination.

“This beautifully simple language would create the highest level of legal protection for public health and the environment,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is supporting the ballot proposal. “The provision would be placed in the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights, putting it on par with other fundamental rights like the right to free speech and freedom of religion.”

The third proposal is for same-day voter registration. The proposed amendment would delete the current requirement in Article II, § 5 that “a citizen be registered to vote at least 10 days before an election” and would allow the Legislature to enact laws permitting a citizen to register to vote less than 10 days before the election. 

The fourth proposal would allow “no excuse for absentee” voting in New York. 

“The proposed amendment would delete from the current provision on absentee ballots the requirement that an absentee voter must be unable to appear at the polls by reason of absence from the county or illness or physical disability,” according to the Board of Elections website.

This would allow for voters to no longer need to provide evidence to explain why they cannot attend a poll to cast their vote in person. 

The fifth proposal is aimed at expanding New York City Civil Court jurisdiction. 

The proposed amendment “would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current jurisdictional limit of $25,000,” according to the State Board of Elections. 

This proposal must go through all New Yorkers as it would be a change in the state Constitution, yet it would only impact the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.