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Major voting changes are on this year’s ballot in NYS

WRVO News (file photo)

Two of the five proposals on the ballot this year could change the way New Yorkers vote from here on out.

The first has to do with voter registration. Right now, registration for the November election this year is already closed.

“Constitutionally, you have to be registered to vote at least 10 days before the election, but statutorily, right now it's 25 days before the election,” said Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner, Dustin Czarny.

However, that could soon change.

“This will allow people who have not properly registered to vote, to be able to register to vote on the day of the election, and cast a ballot as long as their registration can be verified,” he said.

As of June, only 63% of eligible Syracuse residents were registered to vote according to the Onondaga County Board of Elections. Czarny said he is hopeful that this change could drastically change voter registration and turnout.

“This has really been a reform that has long been sought after in New York,” he said.

The next proposal would eliminate the need for an excuse to request an absentee ballot.

“It will mean that anybody who wants to get an absentee ballot can get so or can get one without any reason or excuse to do this with,” said Czarny.

New York wouldn’t be the first to implement the no-excuse absentee ballot–in fact, it’s one of the last to do so and experts point to the pandemic as a big player in getting this proposal on the ballot.

Czarny said the more options voters have to cast their ballots, the better.

“If you look at what the voters want, the voters tend to want more options to be able to vote either at home or early or on election day and have a three-prong option for all elections in New York,” he said.

The remaining three proposals address environmental rights, New York City civil court, and state redistricting ahead of the upcoming congressional redistricting.

Regarding green legislature–one proposal, if passed, would include the Environmental Rights Amendment into the state’s Bill of Rights. This would guarantee New Yorkers the right to clean air, water, and a healthful environment.

After the 2020 census data was released, it was determined that New York was 89 people shy of keeping its 27 congressional seats. Now, the state is going to lose one seat, meaning a redistricting process is underway. But before it picks up speed, the legislature voted on a number of details regarding redistricting that they lumped into one proposal. If passed, the proposal would do the following:

  • Change the vote thresholds for adopting redistricting plans when one political party controls both legislative chambers.
  • Require that incarcerated persons be counted at the place of their last residence for redistricting.
  • Eliminate passive language that excludes non-citizens and Native Americans from population counts when districts are drawn.
  • Remove the block-on-border requirement for Senate districts. Currently, the state requires that towns or blocks that could be placed in multiple districts be placed together–that would be removed.
  • Cap the number of state senators at 63–which is the current number of senators.
  • Move up the timeline for redistricting and repeal inoperative language. This is proposed because the original timelines were based on an August primary election, not one in June.

The final proposal would raise the monetary threshold of cases New York City’s civil courts can see from $25,000 to $50,000.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.