By Robert Harding
A collection of good government groups is urging the New York Board of Elections to place the question asking voters whether the state should hold a constitutional convention on the front of this year’s general election ballot.
The leaders of the five groups — Citizens Union, Committee for a Constitutional Convention, League of Women Voters of New York State, Long Island Association and the NY People’s Convention PAC — worry that the state Board of Elections will place the question on the back of the ballot.
The placement of ballot questions and propositions depends on available space. If there are few races, the questions could appear on the front of the paper ballots. If there are several local races on the ballot, the questions and propositions could be shifted to the back.
Dare Thompson, president of the League of Women Voters of New York State, said the question regarding the constitutional convention is “too important” to place on the rear side of the ballot.
“No one should be deprived of their vote by forgetting to turn the ballot over,” she said.
The coalition is also requesting the addition of neutral language to the ballot question. The existing question is: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”
Proponents of the constitutional convention want a line added informing voters that if a majority votes no, there won’t be a convention.
“Standing alone this wording doesn’t give a sufficient picture of the role of the people in the process,” said Bill Samuels, founder of NY People’s Convention PAC. “Delegates to the convention are elected by the people, and any proposals emerging from it must be approved by a public vote in order to take effect.”
Polls indicate there may be more of an appetite for a constitutional convention this time around. A Siena College poll released in April found 59 percent of voters support holding a constitutional convention.
One challenge for supporters, though, might be the lack of information about holding a convention.
A vast majority of voters — 85 percent — told Siena that they have heard very little, if anything, about the constitutional convention ballot question.
If voters allow a constitutional convention to be held, three delegates from each of the state’s 63 state senate districts will be elected in November 2018. Fifteen at-large delegates will be elected statewide.
The convention would be held in April 2019.
Any amendments authored at the convention and approved by a majority of delegates will go to the state’s voters for final adoption.
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