Constitutional Convention Defeat Allays UUP Concerns
State voters rejected plans for a constitutional convention last Tuesday, a ballot initiative which had received vocal opposition from United University Professions but little noticeable interest from students.
Had voters accepted the proposition, they would have elected three delegates from each senatorial district next November. The delegates would have met in April 2019 to discuss possible changes to the state constitution and then submitted their amendments to voters for approval that fall.
UUP President Aaron Major said Thursday he was happy to see the proposition voted down by a wide margin – 83 percent no to 17 percent yes.
“Given that very early polling showed more support, than opposition, to the Constitutional Convention, this result really shows the power that a broad-based, grassroots effort can have,” said Major in an email.
Jose Cruz, an associate professor and faculty expert at the University at Albany’s Department of Political Science, spoke about opposition to the convention.
“I think they were right in raising concerns, sort of scaring people a little bit as to the negative consequences of a constitutional convention process dominated by money interests, anti-labor and anti-working class people,” said Cruz. “To say that in all likelihood it would have been controlled by special interests, it’s hard to say with certainty that would have been the case.”
Cruz said he felt the more persuasive argument against the convention was the fact that the assembly already has a process to amend the state’s constitution.
This debate had little impact for students, however, said Cruz.
“From my sense about students here, I have no indication that this was a burning issue in the minds of UAlbany students.”
Official election night statistics are not expected to be out for another two weeks, but Student Association administrative assistant Keturah Williams gave some indication of the turnout. Williams, who sat in the SA office across from the campus center polling place for almost six hours, said she didn’t see many students head to the booths.
“I saw about 75 people,” said Williams.
Students interviewed outside the campus center polling place painted a small picture of the variance in student interest for Tuesday’s off-year election.
“I remember my high school social studies teacher always used to stress the importance of local elections,” said Nicholas Dorthe, a sophomore history major.
Though he had seen the “Vote NO on the constitutional convention” signs for six months, Dorthe said he liked the idea of coming together to examine and revise our state’s constitution.
Jeff Shapiro, a junior English and economics major who also serves on the UAS Board of Directors, said he thought the convention would open up the constitution to dangerous changes, like taking away teachers’ pensions.
“People make short-term decisions, not long term,” said Shapiro, referring to voters who would have been able to approve amendments the delegates submitted.
Sean Stone, like many other students, did not vote in last week’s elections. Stone said he didn’t feel like taking the time to register to vote in Albany or fill out an absentee ballot for elections back home.
“I studied the constitutional convention a little bit,” said Stone. “My opinions on it weren’t strong enough for me to come out and vote.”