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Poll Finds Support For Constitutional Convention In NY Slipping

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A new poll finds the ballot question on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention in New York has become widely unpopular with voters.

The Siena College poll finds likely voters in the November 7 elections are leaning against Proposition One on whether to hold a constitutional convention, “by a better than two to one margin,” said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg. 

The numbers are a change from earlier in the year, when a poll showed the majority of voters said they were in favor of holding a constitutional convention, despite the fact that they had not heard much about it. 

And the negativity about the proposed convention is widespread. Fifty-six percent of voters who identify as liberals and 60 percent of New Yorkers who say they are conservative all are against the idea.  

Sixty percent agreed with the statement that the event would be a “waste of time and money”.  

One difference in the months since the first polls on the topic - up to $1.5 million has been spent by a broad coalition against holding the convention. It includes unions, the state’s Conservative Party and pro and anti-abortion groups. All say they fear a revision of the constitution could be harmful to their interests.  

They’ve purchased TV ads portraying the convention as potentially corrupt and controlled by lawmakers who already hold power.  

Greenberg, with Siena, says the anti-constitutional convention campaign has had an impact. Voters say they haven’t heard much in support of the event.  

“Campaigns take place,” said Greenberg. “And campaigns educate voters." 

Supporters of the constitutional convention, including Randy Mastro of the reform group Citizens Union, says he has faith in New Yorkers’ ability to take back their government by holding a convention, and predicts that there will be "yes" votes on Election Day.   

“We have a chance to take our state back, to bring good government to New York, and this constitutional convention is our chance,” said Mastro. “And they’re going to grab it.”  

The likely voters who were polled do support the second proposal on the ballot by an overwhelming margin. It would allow a judge to revoke the pensions of some public officials convicted of felonies. But Greenberg says they are mostly confused by the third ballot question, concerning land use in the Adirondack and Catskill parks. It would create a land bank of 250 acres and allow withdrawals of small amounts of land to fix bridges and lay cable lines for internet access. 

“Right now, voters are sort of divided,” said Greenberg who said the poll finds 46 percent support the proposal, and 35 percent say they are against it, with 18 percent undecided.

Voter turnout is once again expected to be light, so those opposed to the convention might be more motivated to come out to the polls. They could swing the vote against the constitutional convention.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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