This October and November, New York City residents can vote on amendments to the city's charter — which is essentially its constitution. Those amendments could bring create a new system of casting your ballot — known as ranked-choice voting — as well as other changes.
OTHER ELECTION GUIDES
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- FAQ: How Will Early Voting Work in New York This Year?
- Debunking Some Common and Unusual Myths About Voting in New York
- Look Up Your Polling Site
- See the Full Charter Revision Questions
Here's a breakdown of what you'll see on the back of your ballot:
PROPOSAL 1: RANKED-CHOICE VOTING
If New Yorkers vote yes to the first ballot measure, they will be able to rank candidates running for city office in order of preference.
The changes would affect only city primaries and special elections, and would go into effect starting in 2021 — right in time for the next mayoral election.
How would a winner be determined? If no candidate gets over 50 percent, the last-place finisher is eliminated and their votes transferred to the second-choice candidate on each ballot. The process repeats until there's a majority winner. The current system requires costly runoff elections when no candidate reaches 40 percent.
The proposal has support from good-government groups, the city's business sector and some lawmakers who believe the changes will give way to cleaner — and even nicer — political campaigns and save money by eliminating run-off primaries.
If approved, the first ballot proposal on elections would also:
Require special elections be held 80 days after an elected office is vacated, a change necessary to conform to military voting and early voting laws.
Speed up the timeline for redrawing City Council district boundaries so it is done before Council candidates run for election. This is in order to accommodate a new primary calendar.
PROPOSAL 2: THE CIVILIAN COMPLAINT REVIEW BOARD (CCRB)
The second ballot question calls for adding two members to the CCRB and bringing the total to 15. One new member would be appointed by the Public Advocate and one would be chosen by the mayor and City Council Speaker. The proposal also would allow the Council to directly appoint CCRB members instead of waiting on the mayor's appointment. The CCRB is an independent civilian-run board that probes allegations of police abuse.
The ballot question would also allow the head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to have subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify and give records as part of CCRB investigations, allowing its investigations to move more quickly and effectively.
The proposal also would require the police commissioner, who has final say on any disciplinary action, give the CCRB an explanation in writing when they intend to deviate from the board's discipline recommendations.
And the proposal would allow the CCRB to investigate and recommend discipline when it suspects a police officer has lied in the course of being investigated, a matter currently handled by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau.
PROPOSAL 3: GOVERNMENT ETHICS
The third ballot question calls for a two-year ban on city elected officials and senior appointed employees lobbying the agency they worked for. The current law sets only a one-year ban. This amendment would apply to anyone leaving city government after January 1, 2022.
If New Yorkers vote yes on the third ballot question, they would also see the following changes to the charter:
Two of the mayor's picks for the five-member Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) would be given to the city comptroller and Public Advocate, allowing them to appoint one member each.
COIB members would be barred from participating in political campaigns in New York City.
COIB members' donations in each election cycle would be limited to $400 or less, depending on the office.
Require by law something Mayor Bill de Blasio already has in place: an office to promote opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses and a citywide director who reports directly to the mayor.
The City Council would need to approve the city's corporation counsel, who is charged with representing the interests of all city elected officials. Currently, the mayor appoints the counsel.
PROPOSAL 4: THE CITY BUDGET
The city already saves money in the budget for the future in case there is an economic downturn or other unexpected costs. But Question Number Four would officially create a "rainy day fund." There's a catch: the city could not use the funds unless the state legislature approves the measure.
Other proposals outlined in Question Four:
The city would guarantee budgets for the Public Advocate and borough president. Specifically, their budgets would be tied to either inflation or the city's overall budget growth. The mayor could, however, determine that lower budgets are necessary depending on the financial outlook. Advocates argue the proposal would prevent the mayor from potentially slashing the offices' budgets out of retaliation.
Mandate that the mayor give the City Council a non-property tax revenue estimate by April 26 instead of June 5.
Require the mayor tell the Council within 30 days when making changes to the city's financial plan if it would require modifications to the budget.
PROPOSAL 5: PUBLIC REVIEW OF LAND USE PROPOSALS
The last ballot proposal would require Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) proposals be more easily available before public review, and for a detailed project summary to be sent to the area's borough president, borough board, and community board at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review. The summary also would need to be posted online.
And the proposal would require that community boards be given extra time to review ULURP applications before they go to the public — 75 to 90 days, depending on when an application is certified.
What else will I be voting for?
There will be a citywide election for Public Advocate, and an election in Queens for district attorney, as well as some smaller races depending on your location.
When will polling sites be open?
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 5. New Yorkers can also cast their ballot on one of nine days before that date.
Can I still register to vote?
Unfortunately, the deadline passed earlier in October.
I am not enrolled in a political party. Can I vote?
For this general election, yes. New York state's primaries are closed primaries, meaning only members of that particular political party can vote. But all registered voters can vote in the general election.
What if I want to change my party affiliation?
It's too late. You cannot change your party enrollment and vote with your new party in the same year.
I am not going to be able to vote in person at my polling place. How can I get an absentee ballot?
New York City residents can apply for absentee ballots by writing the Board of Elections, emailing email@example.com, or filling out an application (accessible on the city's Board of Elections website) and bringing it to their Board of Elections borough office. The application must either be mailed seven days before the election, or returned to the resident's county Board of Elections by the day before the election.
How do I register to vote for the general election?
- You can register in person at your county Board of Elections. There is one in each borough — the Bronx, New York (Manhattan), Richmond (Staten Island), Queens, and Kings (Brooklyn).
- You can also apply to register to vote at a host of New York State agency offices. See a full list.
- You can request that a voter registration application form be mailed to you on the state Board of Elections website, or you can call 1-800-FOR-VOTE.
- You can submit that voter application form to your local DMV. You can also register to vote on the DMV website if you already have a DMV-issued ID, such as a driver's license.
- The state Board of Elections website makes a registration form available on its website. It can be either filled out on a computer and then printed out, or it can be printed and filled out by hand. Once filled out, it must be mailed to your county Board of Elections.
- City residents can also email their mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-VOTE-NYC to request a mail registration application.
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