What is a New York constitutional convention?

- Should New York hold a convention to revise the state constitution or not? The once-in-a-generation question will be put to voters on Election Day. If that is news to you, you're not alone. A majority of registered voters polled by Baruch College had never heard of or read anything about a constitutional convention.

The last time New Yorkers voted to hold a "con con" was in 1965. A "yes" vote this time around would allow the public to elect delegates in 2018 to convene in Albany in 2019. The delegates would come up with recommended constitutional amendments, which voters would ultimately have to approve in a statewide referendum.

"It's a chance for the people to take charge, it's a chance for the people to clean up Albany," said Evan Davis, the manager for the Committee for a Constitutional Convention and a former counsel to the late Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Others in favor include the League of Women Voters and the New York State Bar Association. The proponents say a con con could tackle issues like corruption, term limits, and environmental protections that state lawmakers have failed to act on.

But opponents say it puts key rights and protections in jeopardy.

"The constitutional convention puts our entire state constitution and all the fundamental rights in protects on the block for repeal and replace," said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The NYCLU is among a broad-ranging list of groups opposing a con con. That also includes organized labor. Unions say collective bargaining rights, pensions, and other worker provisions could be undone through a con con.

But Evan Davis disputes that.

"This is a strong labor state," Davis said. "Those rights are not going to go away."

Other groups against a con con say it would be a waste of taxpayer money and that because delegates are elected according to state senatorial districts, the process would favor incumbent lawmakers.

"It's rigged," Lieberman said. "I think the New York State constitutional convention, by virtue of political and racial gerrymandering, is a con."

Elected delegates would be paid a salary of about $80,000 and would be able to hire staff.

Voters rejected a con con in 1977 and 1997.

On Tuesday November 7, the question will be one of three proposals printed on the back of ballots, so be sure to flip yours over when you vote.

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