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GOP claims victory as three ballot propositions fail

Karen DeWitt
New York State Public Radio

Republicans and Conservatives are claiming victory in the rejection of three ballot proposals that would have allowed mail-in voting in New York, same-day voter registration and made changes to the state’s redistricting process.

Supporters say they wish Democratic elected officials had pushed harder for the measures.

State GOP Party Chair Nick Langworthy and other Republican leaders traveled the state in the weeks leading up to the election to speak against the ballot measures. They distributed lawn signs urging a no vote, and the state’s Conservative Party ran television ads. 

Langworthy, who held 40 news conferences to urge voters to reject the measures said outside the state Capitol building that Democrats overreached, and voters responded with “common sense.” 

“All three resoundingly defeated,” Langworthy said. “People of all party affiliations voted to keep fair and honest elections in this state.” 

Langworthy said in addition to the defeat of the propositions, there were significant wins by Republican candidates on Long Island, including for county executive and district attorney in Nassau County, and in the district attorney’s race in Suffolk County. He said the outcomes are a referendum on the performance of President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

And he said the victories help “set the table” for Republican wins in next year’s statewide races, including the contest for governor. He likened 2022 to the mid-1990s, when Republican candidate George Pataki beat then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. 

“And build the best ticket that our party has run since 1994,” said Langworthy. “And we are going to elect a Republican governor.”  

Credit Karen DeWitt / New York State Public Radio
New York State Public Radio
New York state Republican Chair Nick Langworthy speaks Wednesday outside the state Capitol.

Government reform groups who backed the measures said they are deeply disappointed with the outcome.

“This is a black eye for democracy and voting rights in New York,” said Sarah Goff with Common Cause.

Goff said what’s puzzling about the defeat is that when surveyed, most voters say they want to be able to vote by mail, and also support same-day voter registration, practices that are in effect in many other states. 

She also believes national political forces influenced the vote, and she said former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud and stolen elections have permeated the nation’s culture, even in blue New York. 

“It was very clear that Republicans and Conservatives just pulled down the national messaging onto this issue,” Goff said. “Which is misinformation, disinformation. The other side is not playing with facts or reality, nor are they presenting fair arguments about would have happened if props 3 and 4 passed.” 

Democrats, who lead the Legislature, approved the ballot measures. Gov. Kathy Hochul was lieutenant governor when they passed. But the governor and legislative leaders did little to promote the proposals. 

Goff said backers of expanded voting will have to do better next time. 

“This is a telling moment for us, in that we need to work harder and smarter,” she said.

Langworthy said he was also surprised that Democratic leaders did not advocate for the measures. And he said perhaps they were silent because they knew the propositions were flawed. 

“The people used common sense, and said, ‘These are solutions to problems that don’t exist in this state, and we’re going to reject it,’” Langworthy said.

If Democratic lawmakers want to try again to allow the voter expansion and alter the redistricting process, they will have to wait a while. The rules on changing the state’s constitution require approval by two consecutively elected state Legislatures, so the measures would not be able to reappear on the ballot until at least 2023.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.