By Naeisha Rose
Voters across the five boroughs, Long Island and upstate New York overwhelmingly said no to a Constitutional Convention to change the state’s charter, according to WNYC.com.
Although there are 50 out of 15,526 precincts left to be counted, of the 15,476 that were tallied New Yorkers resoundingly dismissed the idea of tweaking or overhauling the state’s Constitution with 83.2 percent against and 16.8 percent for out of the more than 3.33 million votes cast on Proposition 1, based on the WNYC count. That is 99.68 percent of the reported votes.
Queens had 99 percent of its precincts accounted for, and 196,296 of those voters said no to a Constitutional Convention and 50,541 said yes, according to The New York Times.
In the months leading up to the general election most Republican and Democratic legislators remarkably put aside their differences to tell their constituents to Vote No to what became know as the Con Con.
Together they formed a bipartisan coalition with unions as well as pro and anti-choice advocates through the coalition New Yorkers Against Corruption.
NYAC estimated the cost to change the state’s treaty would be upwards of $300 million for taxpayers, and wasted no time in going over the negatives of a convention, like the possibility of special interest groups taking hold of a Con Con to weaken unions, which could lead to pensions being wiped out.
There was also the fear that rights already mandated under the state’s Constitution would be eliminated, like safety nets for the impoverished or the disabled, according to members of the Legal Aid Society, a non-for-profit that provides legal services to such people.
“There is a right for people who are needy,” said Susan Welber, an attorney for the nonprofit. “That is not a quote, but that is basically what it boils down to.”
Government reform groups wanted a Con Con to modernize the state’s legal system, improve education, reproductive rights, and end corruption in government, according to the Sanctuary State Project, a group that favored a convention.
Despite a Siena College Research Institute poll showing Democrats leaning toward a Con Con, Sanctuary State Project member Art Chang conceded that the Independent Democratic Caucus, which works with the GOP in Albany, could hamper any progressive changes reform advocates wanted.
Senate Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) pointed out that voters would prefer that the money be used to fix issues troubling their communities now.
“I think that if you went to the average person and said do you want to put that into roads, highways and bridges or education or health, I think people would do that,” said Flanagan.
Ibrahim Bhuiyan, a cab driver who lives in Springfield Gardens and wants improvements to the roads in his neighborhood agreed, especially if the touted improvements that reform groups’ wanted were small or insignificant.
“It doesn’t make sense to spend all this money if there are little changes and they don’t go all the way,” Bhuiyan said. “ I would rather we go through the slower [legislative] process than for it to cost us a lot of money.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose