85 percent of New Yorkers are in the dark about the upcoming Constitutional Convention ballot question

“Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”

That will be the question posed to New York state voters on November 7.

State law requires that voters are asked every 20 years. The last time we said yes was in 1965.

Based on findings in the most recent Siena College poll, New Yorkers aren’t exactly clamoring for a convention this time around.

Only 13 percent of registered voters surveyed said they either heard a “great deal” or “some” when asked how much they have heard about the vote this fall.

Meanwhile, 24 percent of voters said they have heard “not very much” about the upcoming ballot question and 61 percent of honest New Yorkers said they heard “nothing” about the issue.

Voters rejected constitutional conventions in 1977 and again in 1997.

Based on recent poll numbers, it’s hard to predict what we will decide in November.

Overall, 59 percent of New Yorkers support holding a constitutional convention and 22 percent oppose it. Another 18 percent don’t know how to answer the question, or they have no opinion.

If voters approve a convention, three delegates would be elected from each of the state’s 63 Senate districts, plus fifteen at-large delegates, for a total of 204. The Legislature would adopt enabling legislation appropriating funds, staffing the convention, and providing a venue. The convention would convene in Albany on April 2, 2019.

Delegates would be able to address a number of issues, from revising the actual Constitution document itself, to limiting outside income for state legislators, changing the process by which voting districts are drawn, eliminating the governor’s message of necessity powers, consolidating the court system and addressing unfunded mandates imposed on local governments.

Despite efforts by good government groups and think tanks, support for a convention is down. One year ago, 69 percent of New York voters supported the idea of organizing a convention. That number has been slowly dropping since then.

In the latest poll, there is little difference in opinion about the need for a constitutional convention between liberals, moderates and conservatives — taking into consideration the poll’s margin of error, about 60 percent of each group supports the idea.

Likewise, there is no significant difference between union and non-union households (about 60 percent of each group support a convention) even though the state’s chapter of the AFL-CIO has come out publicly against the convention.

However, there are some notable differences in opinion between:

  • political parties – 62 percent of Democrats favor a convention while 53 percent of Republicans support one;
  • male and female – 63 percent of men favor a convention compared to 56 percent of female;
  • blacks and whites – 71 percent of Blacks support a convention compared to 57 percent of whites;
  • young and old – 71 percent of those age 18-34 support a convention compared to 53 percent of New Yorkers 55 and older;
  • low-income and wealthy – 66 percent of New Yorkers making less than $50,000 support a convention compared to 56 percent of New Yorkers making more than $100,000; and
  • New York City residents and suburbanites – 63 percent of those in the five boroughs support a convention compared to 54 percent of those living in the suburbs

The Siena poll was conducted between April 17 and April 20, with 714 registered voters questioned via telephone. The poll has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

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