Today is Election Day, which in New York can feel like Groundhog Day. Roughly 97% of our incumbents win, and 42% of this year's candidates have either no opposition or no major party opposition. Turnout is a joke. Our governor doesn't really have to campaign for himself or anyone else. It's true that 30 lawmakers have been tossed from office on corruption charges in the past seven years, and that our legislators and chief executive regularly collaborate to exclude the people they represent, but what are you going to do about it? Today you'll have the option to vote on three ballot measures, and it's the only thing that is more important than choosing your lunch.
Gerrymandering is how legislators of both parties collude to "crack," "kidnap," "dilute," and "divide" voters in order to consolidate their power. In 2012, Governor Cuomo urged legislators to agree on a better process that would make the system less blatantly insulting to voters. The result was Proposition 1. Currently, voting districts are chosen by a panel of six legislators. Under Prop 1, districts would be drawn by...a panel of ten people appointed by the legislature.
The measure was initially going to refer to that panel as "independent," on the basis that the panel members can't be married to lawmakers, or registered lobbyists, or hold other ethically dubious positions, and that two members of the panel cannot be registered Democrats or Republicans. But last month a State Supreme Court Judge ruled that the panel “cannot be described as ‘independent’ when eight out of the ten members are the handpicked appointees of the legislative leaders and the two additional members are essentially political appointees by proxy.”
Two major good government groups, Citizens Union and Common Cause, are at odds on Prop 1. LoHud has a debate between Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, which supports the constitutional amendment, and Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, who opposes it. The video is "the most rollicking 45-minute exchange on redistricting reform you'll see all year" (Tad Friggendawl, Too Cool For School News).
"Most people understand that politics is about compromise," Dadey says. "It's about fighting for the ideal, but compromising in the interest of moving forward…A vote against Prop 1 will preserve the status quo that we've all criticized for decades."
Lerner, who was one of the voters who sued to have the "independent" language removed from the ballot, counters that Prop 1 "is carefully designed to seem as if the public is getting a benefit, but it's actually rearranging the furniture for no change, and is in fact worse than our current system."
It's worth quoting Lerner at length here:
Frankly I think it strains credulity to think that part of that closed door deal, that all of a sudden the legislature did something entirely different. They walk out, they say, "Take it or leave it. Aren't you lucky we decided to gift you with reform?"
So long as we accept whatever the legislature will dish out and we don't hold them to a better standard, we're going to get the kind of fake reform you find in Prop 1. It's confusing. It's designed to confuse voters.
If we lock this into our constitution, then believe me, there's not going to be any change. The legislature will say we've we've done something grand but of course it's political flimflammery and a farce.
A 28-YEAR-OLD FORMER ENGLISH/HISTORY MAJOR WHO CANNOT REMEMBER THE LAST TIME HE WASHED HIS COFFEE CUP THINKS YOU SHOULD VOTE "NO" ON PROP 1: To argue that "We need to pass this flawed piece of legislation that enshrines the people who dreamt it up because they control everything anyway" is the most cynical form of voter Stockholm syndrome. We don't redistrict again until 2022. Surely voters will demand more of Governor Sandra Lee and the Cyborg Families Party by then.
Current state law requires that all proposed legislation be printed out for our elected officials. This proposal would amend the state constitution to allow electronic copies to be sent instead. “There is an average 17,000 bills that come across our desks, and they have to be printed 213 times, so that gives you an indication of the amount of paper,” Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco tells Capital New York, adding that the bill would save $53 million every year.
A PERSON WHO OCCASIONALLY USES PAPER RECEIPTS AS TOOTHPICKS IN TIMES OF EMERGENCY THINKS YOU SHOULD VOTE "YES" ON PROP 2: Unless you are in the pocket of Big Paper, this seems like a vote you can feel good about.
The Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 would give the state legislature a one-time ability to issue $2 billion in debt through state bonds to pay for "interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop, laptop, and tablet computers…high speed broadband," and other technological advances that were mostly absent from our own education but are probably pretty important now.
Cuomo got Eric Schmidt to agree to sign off on this idea (but not pay for the improvements himself).
The conservative Empire Center makes some relatively persuasive arguments as to why this is a "$2 billion dollar boondoggle."
This proposal doesn’t make much sense. Taxpayers are being asked to pay principal and interest on debt well beyond the life of iPads, laptops and other computer and technology equipment. E.J. McMahon, president of the fiscal-watchdog Empire Center, agrees: “Cuomo seems to rely on an arbitrary number and would pay for technology that will be outdated and useless before the state’s indebtedness is even paid off.”
A BLOGGER WHO RECENTLY LEARNED THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ROTH AND A STANDARD IRA THINKS YOU SHOULD VOTE "YES" ON PROP 3: This does seem like an arbitrary ornament on Cuomo's centrist Holiday Tree—why are we issuing debt for students' iPads when we're giving corporations tax cuts? Still, it seems cruel to deny The Future access to things they presumably need now, or now-ish. Put it on the credit card and hope that these voters of tomorrow will succeed where we have failed.