Dutchess Voters Reject Smaller Legislature

Statewide voting reform, redistricting proposals voted down

Dutchess County voters overwhelmingly rejected on Tuesday (Nov. 2) a Republican-led bid to reduce the Legislature’s size to 21 seats from 25.

A majority of Dutchess and Putnam County residents also joined voters statewide in defeating ballot proposals designed to make voting easier, freeze state Senate seats at 63 and amend rules governing the commission created to redraw districts for the state Legislature and House of Representative seats.

Two-thirds of people casting ballots in Dutchess (37,095 to 17,724) endorsed maintaining the size of the county Legislature. The county’s 15 Republican legislators had voted unanimously in July to put the proposal on the ballot, arguing that the number of representatives was too large for the county’s population.

Democrats, who control 10 seats in the Legislature, voted against the proposal, with some citing fears that a smaller number of seats would dilute Democrat majorities in party strongholds like Beacon. But they also said they suspected the referendum was tied to Republicans’ disbanding of an independent commission that had been assigned to redraw district boundaries based on 2020 census data.

The Republican majority voted to disband the commission, citing a technical error by Democrats who selected a member who was a school board member (commission members cannot be elected officials). The Republicans argued that he could not be replaced and that the entire selection process had to be redone.

On Oct. 29, County Executive Marc Molinaro announced that the county has reopened the application process for the new commission; residents can apply at dutchessny.gov/drawthelines. Democratic and Republican leaders in the Legislature will each appoint two members, and those four members will appoint the other three from a list of candidates.

State Judicial Results

The 9th district of the state Supreme Court includes Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties. There were nine candidates for five seats on the court.

According to unofficial results released this week that do not include absentee ballots, the five candidates leading the tally are Robert Berliner, an incumbent since 2008 from Rockland County; Thomas Davis, a private attorney for 29 years from Dutchess; Christie D’Alessio, the town justice in Greenburgh, Westchester; Thomas Quinones, a city court judge from Yonkers; and James Hyer, a private attorney for 15 years from Westchester. All ran on the Democratic line.

The Dutchess results mirrored the state results; in Putnam, Robert Guertin, a city court judge in Middletown who ran on the Republican line, finished third.

Elsewhere on the back of the ballot, the results were not good for Democrats.

While voters statewide, and in Dutchess and Putnam counties, approved a referendum that amends the state Constitution to “establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthy environment,” Democrat-favored proposals to allow same-day voting and no-excuse voting by absentee ballot failed.

Proposal 3, which would have eliminated a requirement that people register to vote at least 10 days in advance, was rejected by 51 percent of voters statewide. In Dutchess the vote was 59 percent against, and in Putnam, 61 percent.

Proposal 4, if approved, would have eliminated a requirement that absentee ballots only be allowed when voters will be away from their home county or they have an illness or physical disability that prevents them from in-person voting. Fifty percent of voters statewide voted against the change, along with 58 percent in Dutchess and 61 percent in Putnam.

Voters also defeated a Democratic proposal to freeze the number of state senators at 63; allow the members of the state Independent Redistricting Commission to appoint its co-executive directors by majority vote; and eliminate the requirement that the directors be from different political parties.

The proposal would also have required that state Senate and Assembly districts be based on total population, including non-citizens and Native Americans; prohibit the division of census blocks in cities like Beacon from being divided into more than one district; and require that inmates be counted, for redistricting purposes, as residents of their place of last residence, not their place of incarceration.

Forty-eight percent of New York state voters cast ballots against the proposal, including 57 percent in Dutchess County and 60 percent in Putnam.

A fifth statewide proposal, to increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current limit of $25,000, passed, including in Dutchess and Putnam counties.

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