Constitutional Convention gets support among all parties, age groups and races

Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library

Ending gerrymandering and guaranteeing abortion rights are two issue voters would want to see addressed if a convention is held

Fifty-five percent of New York state voters support a Constitutional Convention to consider changes to the State Constitution compared to 30 percent who do not, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

Every party, gender, education level, age and racial group supports holding a convention, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds. Support for a convention is highest among Democrats, non-white and young voters, age 18 to 34.

Voters will be asked on the ballot this November whether the state should organize a convention for the purpose of revising the state Constitution. New York has not held a constitutional convention since 1967.

A large, powerful and diverse coalition is opposing a convention, while good-government groups are trying to educate voters about the potential benefits of holding one.

If voters approve a convention, they will also have the opportunity to decide which issues are on the table for discussion.

The Quinnipiac poll conducted over six days earlier this month asked voters about four specific issues that might be considered in a convention. Support for possible constitutional amendments which could be considered if there is a constitutional convention is:

  • 65-to-24 percent for an amendment to create an independent non-partisan commission to create election districts for members of Congress, State Senators and State Assembly members;
  • 54-to-34 percent opposed to an amendment to create public financing for candidates for state office;
  • 49-to-41 percent support for an amendment to prevent reductions in public employee pension benefits;
  • 68-to-27 percent support for an amendment to guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion.

“Should there be a constitutional convention — let’s stick with the politicians and call it con-con? Voters have to decide on this every 20 years and this time around they’re in favor,” said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“The last time, the state Legislature hijacked the vote by essentially taking over the convention. Some politicians fret that a special-interest group might mobilize and turn the con-con to their ends. Others see the opportunity to simplify the state’s grossly over-specific sprawl of a Constitution.”

A total of 53 percent of New York state voters are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going in the state today, while 46 percent are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”

“So here are some specific things,” Carroll added, “that have been talked about by people who pay attention”:

“Should there be a nonpartisan group to draw political district lines? This draws a lot of support,” Carroll said.

Sixty-five percent of voters approve this idea while 24 percent oppose it. Democrats and independents like this idea more than Republicans, according to the poll results.

“Should elections be publicly financed? Not according to voters today,” Carroll said.

Thirty-four percent of voters like the idea of taxpayer-funded campaigns as a way to reduce potential corruption by elected officials; 54 percent of voters oppose public campaign financing.

“Should the Constitution ban cutting public employee pensions? A close call,” according to Carroll.

Forty-nine percent of voters support amending the state Constitution to prevent any future reductions in public pension benefits while 41 percent of voters oppose such an amendment. Eleven percent of voters do not know, or chose not to answer this question.

“Should there be a state-level Roe v. Wade? A big plus,” said Carroll.

When asked if they would support or oppose amending the state Constitution to guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion, 68 percent they would support it while 27 percent said they would oppose it. Republicans were evenly split on this question at 48 percent for and 48 percent against.

“Plus, of course, all sorts of stuff could be included,” Carroll said. “Our list is just a sample.”

Voters will be asked the convention question on November 7, along with two other questions addressing land use in the Adirondacks and stripping the pensions of corrupt officials.

From July 5 to July 10, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,137 New York voters via landlines and cell phones. The results have a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

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