Not many, if history is our guide.
In the last 10 years, eight constitutional amendments have been put to New York voters. Six passed and two failed.
But here’s the kicker: An average of 54 percent of ballots cast didn’t log a vote for those proposals. If you take out the presidential election year in 2008—when both turnout and blank proposal votes spiked—the average is still a whopping 48 percent.
The numbers vary from year to year, but the most apt comparison may be 2009 and 2005, the last two New York City mayoral races. (The city mayor’s office is up for grabs again tomorrow.)
In 2009, a total of 3.3 million ballots were cast statewide. Of those, 1.9 million were blank or void on a proposal to allow a National Grid power line in St. Lawrence County. On a question of whether prisoners should be able to work for non-profits, about 1.5 million ballots were blank.
Two proposals were on the ballot in 2005: a transportation bond act and a plan to transfer some budget powers away from the governor’s office. The budget amendment ultimately failed, but 1.8 million of the 3.9 million ballots cast were left blank or void on the proposal. On the bond act, 1.7 million ballots were left blank.
But it’s not an entirely apples-to-apples comparison. New York has a total of six amendments on the ballot this year, while there were never more than two in any of the last 10 years. The amendment slate is also highlighted by a proposal that has been particularly high-profile—a plan to allow up to seven private casinos statewide.
Another difference: This year, the ballot proposals will be on the back of the ballot in at least 58 of 62 counties. How many will find their way to the back? It remains to be seen.
The blank rate is also driven up somewhat by an amendment on the ballot in 2008, which was a presidential election year. Turnout was up significantly—7.7 million people cast a ballot—but about 70 percent of ballots, or 5.4 million, left the proposal blank or void.
Using numbers from the state Board of Elections, here’s how the last 10 years of ballot proposals have gone: