Casting Your Vote On Constitutional Amendments

By Senator Patty Ritchie
It’s often said the one of the most important responsibilities we have in a democracy is to vote.

On November 5, people across the country will held to the polls to exercise this right. Here in New York State, people won’t just be casting their votes for candidates on Election Day, they will also be making decisions on amendments to the New York State Constitution.

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the referendum on the November 5 ballot concerning the authorization of expanded casino gaming in NYS. This proposal would amend the state Constitution to allow construction of up to seven Las Vegas-style casinos in designated regions across the state, with the first four to be built Upstate.

You should also know that there are five other resolutions that are up for a vote from the public.

This year’s ballot contains the largest number of such proposals in a number of years and several could have a significant impact on the economic health of communities right here in our backyard. Here’s a look at measures you’ll be asked to weigh in on:

Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post – Appointment: This proposed amendment would grant additional civil service credit to veterans who are certified as disabled after they have been appointed or promoted to a civil service position.

Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities: This proposed amendment would extend until January 1, 2024, the authority of counties, cities, towns and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits, indebtedness contracted  from the construction and reconstruction of facilities utilized for the treatment and disposal of sewage.

Settling Disputed Title in the Forest Preserve: Under the State Constitution, it is typically prohibited to sell, exchange or take any forest preserve land. This proposed amendment would allow the Legislature to settle century-old disputes between the State and private parties over ownership of certain parcels of land in the forest preserve by giving up the State’s claim to disputed parcels. In exchange, the State would get land to be incorporated into the forest preserve.  The land exchange would only occur if the Legislature determines that the land to be conveyed to New York State would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels do.

In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals: This amendment would allow NYCO Minerals, Inc., a private company, to continue its mining operations in Essex County. The proposal would allow the State to convey roughly 200 forest preserve acres to the company for mining and in exchange, the company would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with that land being added to the forest preserve. Under this proposal, when NYCO Minerals finishes its mining, the company would restore the condition of the land it received in exchange and return it to the forest preserve.

Increasing Age until which Certain State Judges Can Serve: This amendment is to increase to the age which Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Appeals may serve to 80, in certain instances.  In addition, the proposed amendment would also prohibit the appointment of any person over the age of 70 to the Court of Appeals.

Our vote is our voice and the six referendums that will appear on the November 5 ballot represent democracy in its purest form.

I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about these amendments before you head to the polls and exercise your right to vote on Election Day.