State ballots feature three propositions

Nov 7, 2017

There are three propositions on the ballot in Tuesday’s elections, though one has proven to be more controversial than the others.

Proposition One gives voters a once-in-20-years chance to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention. 

Supporters say it’s an opportunity to reform unethical practices in Albany that have led to both former legislative leaders facing corruption charges. Nine former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo also have been charged with crimes, including bribery and bid-rigging.

Opponents, including the state’s major unions and environmentalists as well as gun rights groups and the Conservative Party, say the state’s constitution includes many rights. They are concerned the convention could be hijacked by groups that don’t agree with their views.

Blair Horner is with the New York Public Interest Research Group, which is remaining neutral on whether to hold the convention. He said the arguments really boil down to two basic elements.

“It’s really hope versus fear,” Horner said.

The other two ballot propositions each amend just one section of the state’s constitution.

Proposition Two gives a judge discretion to revoke the pensions of public officials convicted of felonies for crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2018. The federal constitution prohibits the state from imposing additional penalties for past crimes, so the change would not affect several state politicians convicted of crimes in recent years. Politicians elected after 2011 are already subject to pension forfeiture if they are convicted of serious crimes.

Proposition Three creates a 250-acre land bank for the Adirondack and Catskill forever wild preserves. It allows local government in the parks to withdraw land from the land bank to make road and bridge repairs and lay cable alongside roadways on lands that otherwise are subject to strict land use rules. Environmental groups as well as elected officials in the region all support the measure.

The biggest challenge, advocates of the proposals said, is for voters to remember to turn their ballot over and vote on the three propositions. John Conklin, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said an effort will be made to remind voters, including arrows on the ballots, or signs at the polling place.

The Board of Elections also is working to dispel a couple of myths that have been circulating on social media.

One is that, if a voter does not vote for or against a proposition, and leaves it blank, then it counts as a yes. Conklin said that is not true.

“Only a yes vote is a yes vote,” Conklin said. “If you leave it blank, it’s a blank vote.”

It won’t be counted for anything, he said.

Another bit of fake news on social media is that the ballot scanners will reject the ballot if a voter leaves the proposition page blank. That also is not true. Conklin said the scanners only reject a ballot if someone votes twice for an office or ballot question that requires just one answer, to give the voter a chance to fix the mistake.

Polls are open until 9 p.m. The Board of Elections website also can help voters find their polling place.