When you walk into your polling place Tuesday (as we know every single one of you is going to do), you may be surprised you are being asked to do more than pick from among candidates for various elective offices. You also will be asked to say yes or no to three ballot proposals. If you haven’t read up on these proposals, it will be too late to do it in the voting booth. So the following is a quick guide to New York’s three ballot proposals, including our opinions on whether yes or no is the best response:
Redistricting reform would be a beautiful thing, but the ugly reality of Proposal One, which purports to reform the process while replacing it with something just as bad, should convince everyone going to the polls to vote no.
Now, the Legislature controls the process. After this “reform,” the Legislature would control the process.
Redistricting reform is meaningless unless you get legislators as far away from it as possible — preferably in another country.
Under Proposal One, however, legislators would choose eight of the 10 members of the commission that would draw the new district lines. The other two members would be chosen by the first eight.
Also, the districts created by the commission would have to be approved by the Legislature. If the Legislature were to twice reject the commission’s district lines, then the Legislature would draw the lines itself.
We don’t see this process as an improvement over the current one, in which the Legislature draws the lines itself.
Under the new process, certain people — including legislators and other elected officials, lobbyists and heads of political parties — would not be allowed to serve on the redistricting commission. That is no guarantee the process will be apolitical.
With legislators picking the commission members, the process is certain to be political. With an even number of members on the commission, and the appointments shared between political parties, chances are good the commission would get gridlocked, in which case the redistricting responsibility would fall back on the Legislature.
Even if the commission manages to agree on a redistricting plan, the Legislature could reject the plan. If the Legislature were to reject the commission’s plans twice, the law would, again, turn over the process to the Legislature.
The commission would either have to come up with a redistricting plan legislators liked, or legislators would do it themselves.
We now have a dysfunctional process that has given us weirdly shaped districts gerrymandered to get either Republicans or Democrats elected. It has given incumbents an advantage so daunting, you have to die or commit a crime to lose a legislative seat in New York, and even then you have a good chance of holding onto it.
Our redistricting process is so bad just about anything would be better, except leaving the power in the same hands where it now resides, and that is what Proposal One does.
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Proposal One isn’t reform, but it is more complicated than the current system, which means it has nothing to recommend it.
Good redistricting reform has been put forward for New York by good-government groups like Common Cause. Common Cause is dedicated to redistricting reform nationwide, because redistricting is one of the primary ways political parties cling to and consolidate power. Common Cause, not surprisingly, opposes Proposal One.
Proposal One is a tool for political parties and incumbent legislators to keep power that should be held by the citizens of the state. It is being promoted as reform, but unfortunately does not deserve the name. It should be defeated.
Vote no on Proposal One.
It’s time for the state Constitution to acknowledge the reality of the Internet. The New York Constitution now requires that all bills get printed out and delivered to legislators’ desks. That means thousands of pages of hundreds of bills, many of which never get passed or voted on (or read), must be printed every year. How many forests have been decimated so environmental protection bills can weigh down the desks of state legislators? Proposal Two would permit electronic distribution of state bills. This change is overdue. If legislators can pretend to have read bills they receive on paper, they can do the same with bills available electronically. The environmental benefits of the proposal are obvious, and it would save money on printing costs, too. Vote yes on Proposal Two.
The third proposal on the ballot is a bond act for the state to borrow up to $2 billion for school technology. Voters should reject taking on debt in an effort to meet the future technology needs of public schools.
We cannot know what the technologies of the future will be. We cannot buy them now because they do not yet exist.
It makes sense to make major investments in school buildings and ballfields, because 30 years later, when the debt is paid off, the buildings and the ballfields are still usable.
Any technology bought for schools now will be obsolete within a few years, at best. Meanwhile, the state will be stuck paying off its $2 billion investment for another quarter-century.
New York would do better to deliver to public schools their full measure of state aid each year, so they can keep up with technology through small annual investments.
Vote no on Proposal Three.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Terry Coomes, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mike Sundberg.