On Tuesday, November 7th, New Yorkers will head to the polls and vote Yes or No to the following question, “Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?”
Every twenty years New York voters have the opportunity to authorize a convention of delegates to create amendments to the state constitution.
The proposition will appear on the back of the ballot. Voters will have to flip that ballot over to cast a Yes or No vote. There is a pending lawsuit that is waging an effort to mandate the New York State Board of Election to place the question on the front of the ballot.
Recent social media posts have erroneously stated that if a voter leaves the question blank it will be counted as a Yes. This is FALSE. Only actual Yes and No votes will be counted.
If the proposition receives more No votes in November, the process ends. If the proposition passes with a majority of Yes votes, a State Constitutional Convention will move forward.
The first step requires the election of delegates on November 6, 2018. There would be 3 delegates elected in each of the 63 New York State senate districts and 15 statewide delegates, for a total of 204 delegates.
At the completion of the delegate election, the convention will convene on April 2, 2019. Each delegate will receive an annual salary of $79,500, equal to that of a New York State assembly member. Total delegate salary would cost the state approximately $16 million.
In addition, the delegates will hire staff and set their salaries, as well as purchase necessary equipment and meeting venues. Some have estimated the overall costs to fall between $50 and $150 million for the constitutional convention. The most recent constitutional conventions resulted in state legislators, their staff members and politically-connected individuals elected as delegates.
The current constitution allows elected officials, judges and other government employees to double dip, collecting the $79,500 delegate salary in addition to their regular government salary. State laws also allow the delegate salary to be factored into pension calculations for these members. During the convention, elected delegates will propose amendments to the State Constitution.
Proponents believe this is the best option to enact reforms to combat alleged corruption in Albany. They hope to restrict state legislator’s outside income and implement ethics reform that has been gridlock. A constitutional convention could also result in eliminating a state legislative chamber, streamlining the legislative process. The current legislative make-up includes 63 state senators and 150 assembly members. Supporters believe a convention could potentially remove unfunded mandates, which place financial burdens on local municipalities. Additionally, they believe it could provide savings in the government pension plans.
Opponents believe the high costs of conducting a convention and having state legislators as delegates, will hinder any chance of positive changes. There are concerns that opening the books on every law can negatively impact environmental conservation, public education, and labor protection laws. Opponents maintain that the right for workers to organize unions, worker’s compensation protections and previously negotiated state pension obligations can be in jeopardy. The most recent constitutional conventions were seen as mere duplications of previous legislative sessions, resulting in little change.
If the constitution convention moves forward and the delegates propose amendments, it is anticipated that voters will consider adopting the amended New York Constitution at the polls on November 5, 2019.
Please remember to exercise your right to vote on November 7, 2017!
By Community Education Council 31 President Michael Reilly