There are three referendum questions on this November’s ballot in New York State: Proposal 1 would make certain changes to New York’s redistricting process; Proposal 2 allows bills in the State Legislature to be submitted electronically, instead of always requiring paper copies; while Proposal 3 would authorize $2 billion in bonds for computer hardware in school classrooms.
Of the three, Proposal 1 has sparked the most controversy. Supporters, principally New York’s Citizens Union, Gov. Cuomo and the League of Women Voters, say that by creating a “politically balanced commission” to draw district lines under new rules, the measure would help curtail gerrymandering for incumbents’ advantage.
Opponents, including New York State United Teachers (NYSUT, the PSC’s state affiliate), the NY Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Common Cause, the NAACP, Tenants PAC and NY Communities for Change, say that because legislative leaders would control appointment of the commission’s members and would make all final decisions on district lines, the proposal is a sham that would in fact entrench the status quo. The New York Times, Albany Times-Union, and several other papers have editorialized against Proposal 1.
The critics won a round in court in September, when a state judge ordered that the word “independent” be removed from ballot language describing the proposed commission. Such a commission “cannot be described as ‘independent’ when eight out of the ten members are the handpicked appointees of the legislative leaders,” ruled Judge Patrick McGrath.
More information is available from the coalitions supporting and opposing Proposal 1. The League of Women Voters and the NY State Board of Elections have more information posted on their sites about Proposals 2 and 3. NYSUT is neutral on Proposal 2 (on electronic distribution of legislative bills) and is supporting Proposal 3 (the Smart Schools Bond Act).
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