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Elections

Ballot Proposals

In addition to voting for candidates in 2014, New Yorkers may also have the opportunity to vote on whether to amend specific provisions of the New York State Constitution via referenda, otherwise known as ballot proposals.

Gotham Gazette will update this page with the information about specific proposals which will appear on the ballot in the 2014 general election.

 

What are Ballot Proposals

What Are Ballot Proposals?

The state constitution, like the United States Constitution, lays out government structures, citizens' rights, and the process through which the constitution can be amended.

According to the NYS Constitution, Article XIX, it can only be amended either by constitutional convention, or by referendum. For the constitution to be amended by referendum – where voters are asked for a "yes" or "no" vote to a proposal that appears on the ballot – this process must be followed:

1. A member or members of each the NYS Assembly and Senate must propose the amendment (through a resolution), and refer it to the NYS Attorney General for review.

2. The Attorney General must submit a written opinion with 20 days of referral to both the Assembly and Senate, which will explain any effects the proposed amendment would have on other provisions of the constitution. (But this is the only step which, if not completed, would not invalidate the amendment.)

3. Both the Assembly and Senate must vote on the proposed amendment, and it must receive a majority of votes in both houses of the legislature, and the "aye" and "nay" votes must be recorded.

4. In the next regular legislative session, the members of the Assembly and Senate must again vote on the proposed amendments, and it again must receive a majority of votes in both houses of the legislature.

5. The legislature must submit each proposed amendment to the NYS Board of Elections to appear on the next general election ballot.

6. The NYS Board of Elections must certify the language of the proposals - and their abstracts, or official summaries - by early August, 3 months before the General Election.

7. New Yorkers must approve the amendment proposal with a majority vote in the general election.

If a ballot proposal to amend the constitution receives a majority of votes from NYS citizens, it would be incorporated into the constitution on January 1, 2015.

BP 1: Redistricting

 

Question to Appear on the Ballot, Certified by NYS Board of Elections

 

Revising State's Redistricting Procedure
The proposed amendment to sections 4 and 5 and addition of new section 5-b to Article 3 of the State Constitution revises the redistricting procedure for state legislative and congressional districts. The proposed amendment establishes an independent redistricting commission every 10 years beginning in 2020, with two members appointed by each of the four legislative leaders and two members selected by the eight legislative appointees; prohibits legislators and other elected officials from serving as commissioners; establishes principles to be used in creating districts; requires the commission to hold public hearings on proposed redistricting plans; subjects the commission's redistricting plan to legislative enactment; provides that the legislature may only amend the redistricting plan according to
the established principles if the commission's plan is rejected twice by the legislature; provides for expedited court review of a challenged redistricting plan; and provides for funding and bipartisan staff to work for the commission. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Abstract, Certified by NYS Board of Elections

The purpose of this proposal is to reform the process of establishing new state legislative and congressional district lines that the Constitution requires every 10 years. If the proposal is approved, an independent redistricting commission will be established to determine lines for legislative and congressional districts, subject to adoption of the commission's plan by the Legislature and approval by the Governor. Under the current provisions of the Constitution, the Legislature is the entity responsible for establishing these lines.

The proposed amendment would amend sections 4 and 5 and add a new section 5-b to Article 3 of the State Constitution. The new section 5-b would establish an independent redistricting commission to determine lines for state legislative and congressional districts. Each decade beginning in 2020, a 10-member independent redistricting commission will be established. Eight members will be appointed by the four state legislative leaders and the remaining two members will be appointed by the eight legislatively-appointed members. These remaining two members cannot, in the preceding five years, have been enrolled in either of the two major political parties in New York State.

The proposed amendment would establish qualifications for the members of the commission. They must be registered to vote in New York. They cannot be the spouse of a statewide elected official, of a member of the United States Congress, or of a member of the State Legislature. They cannot be or have been within the preceding three years a member of the New York State Legislature, United States Congress, or a statewide elected official; a state officer or employee or a legislative employee; a lobbyist registered in New York; or a political party chairman. The proposed amendment would require that, to the extent practicable, appointments to the commission reflect the diversity of the residents of New York and result from consultation with outside groups.

The proposed amendment would establish principles to be applied in creating districts, which must be drawn consistently with the requirements of the federal and state constitutions and federal statutes. These principles include:

  • No district lines may result in the prohibited denial or abridgement of racial or language minority voting rights. Districts cannot be drawn to have the purpose of or result in the denial or abridgement of such rights.
  • To the extent practicable, districts must contain as nearly as may be an equal number of inhabitants. The commission must provide a specific public explanation for any deviation that exists.
  • Each district must consist of contiguous territory and be as compact in form as practicable.
  • Districts cannot be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.
  • Maintenance of cores of existing districts, of pre-existing political subdivisions, and of communities of interest must be considered.

While preparing its redistricting plan, the commission must hold at least 12 public hearings throughout the state. The public must be notified of the hearings and be able to access and review the commission's draft redistricting plans, relevant data, and related information before the first public hearing. The commission must report the findings of the public hearings to the Legislature when the commission submits its redistricting plan.

The proposed amendment would establish voting requirements for the commission. To send a redistricting plan to the Legislature, seven out of 10 commission members must approve a plan. If the Legislature is controlled by one party, then the seven favorable votes must include that of at least one member appointed by each of the four legislative leaders. If control of the Legislature is split between the two major political parties, then the seven votes must include that of at least one member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and one member appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate. If seven members of the commission cannot agree on a redistricting plan, then the commission submits the plan or plans that received the most votes, along with a record of the votes taken.

The commission must submit its redistricting plan for the Assembly and the Senate in one bill and the Legislature must vote upon that single bill without amending it. If the plan does not pass the Legislature and get the Governor's approval or a veto override, the commission must submit another plan. If the second plan does not pass the Legislature and get the Governor's approval or a veto override, the Legislature can amend the second plan as it deems necessary. The Legislature's amended plan must comply with the same principles the commission's plan was subject to. When an amended plan is approved by the Legislature, it is presented to the Governor for action.

The proposed amendment would establish the following voting requirements for the Legislature to approve a redistricting plan:

  • If the Speaker of the Assembly and the Temporary President of the Senate belong to different political parties and the required commission members approved the redistricting plan submitted to the Legislature, then at least a majority of the members elected to each house of the Legislature must vote in favor of the plan to approve it.
  • If the Speaker of the Assembly and the Temporary President of the Senate belong to different political parties and the required commission members did not approve the redistricting plan or plans submitted to the Legislature, then at least 60% of the members elected to each house of the Legislature must vote in favor of a plan to approve it.
  • If the Speaker of the Assembly and the Temporary President of the Senate belong to the same political party, then at least 2/3 of the members elected to each house of the Legislature must vote in favor of a plan to approve it.

The proposed amendment would establish a 60-day deadline by which a court must decide a petition challenging an apportionment plan and would provide the Legislature with an opportunity to correct any legal problems that a court finds with a redistricting plan.

The proposed amendment would create a bi-partisan staff to perform the commission's duties and would provide for appropriations for the commission's expenses.

Full Text of Resolution Voted on by Legislature to Put the Proposal on the Ballot

*coming soon

BP 2: E-Bills

Question to Appear on the Ballot, Certified by NYS Board of Elections

Permitting Electronic Distribution of State Legislative Bills
The proposed amendment to section 14 of Article 3 of the State Constitution would allow electronic distribution of a state legislative bill to satisfy the constitutional requirement that a bill be printed and on the desks of state legislators at least three days before the Legislature votes on it. It would establish the following requirements for electronic distribution: first, legislators must be able to review the electronically-sent bill at their desks; second, legislators must be able to print the bill if they choose; and third, the bill cannot be changed electronically without leaving a record of the changes. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Abstract, Certified by NYS Board of Elections

The purpose of this proposal is to allow electronic distribution of a state legislative bill to satisfy the constitutional requirement that a bill be printed and on the desks of state legislators at least three days before the Legislature votes on it. Under the current provisions of the Constitution, this requirement can only be satisfied by distribution of a physical printed copy.

The proposal would amend section 14 of Article 3 of the State Constitution. It would provide that a bill will be considered "printed and upon the desks" of members of the Legislature if, first, it is set forth in a legible electronic format by electronic means, and, second, legislators are able to review the bill in the electronic format at their desks. The proposal would establish that a bill is set forth by "electronic means" when it is sent between computers or other machines designed to send and receive information, the receiving legislators can print the bill if they choose, and the bill cannot be changed without leaving a record of the changes.

Full Text of Resolution Voted on by Legislature to Put the Proposal on the Ballot

*coming soon

BP 3: School Bonds

Question to Appear on the Ballot, Certified by NYS Board of Elections

The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014
The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014, as set forth in section one of part B of chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014 be approved?

Abstract, Certified by NYS Board of Elections

The purpose of this proposal is to authorize the creation of state debt and the sale of state bonds in the amount of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide money for the single purpose of improving learning and opportunity for public and nonpublic school students in New York.

This proposal would allow the State to borrow up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000). This money would be expended on capital projects related to the design, planning, site acquisition, demolition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or acquisition or installation of equipment for the following types of projects:

  1. To acquire learning technology equipment or facilities including, but not limited to,
    1. Interactive whiteboards,
    2. Computer servers, and
    3. Desktop, laptop, and tablet computers;
  2. To install high-speed broadband or wireless internet connectivity for schools and communities;
  3. To construct, enhance, and modernize educational facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and provide instructional space to replace transportable classroom units; and
  4. To install high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses.

The State Legislature would be authorized to make the bond proceeds available to fund the cost of approved capital projects undertaken by or on behalf of school districts for these purposes.

The proposal also would allow the State to refund the debt to take advantage of lower interest rates if the opportunity arises. To accomplish this, the proposal authorizes the State Comptroller to issue additional state bonds in sums up to or exceeding the amount of the bonds initially issued to refund, to advance refund, or otherwise to repay part or all of such bonds prior to the scheduled dates of their maturity.

Full Text of Resolution Voted on by Legislature to Put the Proposal on the Ballot

*coming soon


*Texts of Questions, Abstracts, and Resolutions reprinted from the NYS Board of Election website.


For additions or corrections, please contact Talia Werber at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it