Forget ‘Hope vs. Fear.’ What does Math tell New Yorkers about a constitutional convention?
On November 7, every New Yorker will be asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on a constitutional convention to re-envision New York’s governing document. If New Yorkers vote “Yes”, a year-long process to nominate and elect convention delegates will commence. Then, proposed amendments would surface from the convention. Voters would ultimately approve or reject any proposed amendments.
Data supports the case for the “Yes” vote. Only an appeal to unjustified fear can support the “No” vote.
New York is a deep blue state. The Trump backlash is making New York more liberal and anti-status quo. Delegate math will almost certainly produce a progressive constitutional convention. Opening up 204 more elected positions holds the potential for a Constitutional Convention that reflects the true diversity of New York State. The last Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution was in 1937. Our next opportunity will be in 20 years.
#1. New York is a deep blue state.
Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Presidential election in New York State by a staggering margin of 1,736,590 votes, many believe New York is a red state. Who can blame them? Graphics from respected sources like the New York Times mislead by focusing on physical instead of political geography.
What do I mean? Maps by physical geography are interesting, but irrelevant to politics. By law, the boundaries of political districts are intended to be drawn so that each district has roughly the same number of voters (setting aside gerrymandering for a separate blog post).
Here is the same map organized by Congressional District:
Out of the 27 Congressional Districts in New York State, Clinton won 17, or 63%, and lost 2 by less than 5%. Those last two, if won by Clinton, would have put victory at over 70% of Congressional Districts.
In the Congressional election, Democrats won 17 seats to 10 for the Republicans.
Look at the distribution of Red and Blue districts. This theme applies to New York State Senate Districts, as well as to the 2014 mid-term elections.
The 8.5 million people of New York City dominate New York State, representing about 43% of New York’s 19.7 million people. Only one lonely Red Congressional District to ten Blue.
Long Island is split between two Blue and two Red Congressional Districts.
Unsurprisingly, Upstate New York is dominated by Red, but only one Democratic Congressional District voted for Trump. The Congressional seat in that same District also flipped Republican.
The same map organized by New York State Senate District paints an equally compelling picture for Democrats:
Out of the 63 New York State Senate Districts in New York State, Clinton won 40, or 63%, and lost 7 by less than 5%. Those last seven, if won by Clinton, would have put victory at nearly 75% of Senate Districts.
Democratic dominance is also maintained in off-year elections. Here are the results of the 2014 Congressional election.
Out of 27 Congressional Districts, Democrats won 18 seats to 9 for the Republicans.
Yes, there are conservative and right-wing elements among us. But they are the clear minority.
#2. The Trump backlash is making New York more progressive.
The Trump backlash was immediate and powerful. Women’s March organizers estimate that 4,956,422 people marched around the world. New York City’s Sister March attracted over 400,000 people, but it was just one of over 20 Sister Marches across New York State. Take a look at the distribution of March locations across the state, which includes locations in the heart of Trump territory.
The backlash has grown. Since the election, the Sanctuary City movement has spread across the country. Over 18,000 women have signed up to run for office on Emily’s List, an advocacy organization, a ten-fold increase. Over 3,800 #indivisible groups have started, with at least one in every Congressional District in the U.S., and local grassroots groups like #GetOrganizedBK have formed across the country.
The latest Siena College poll of New Yorkers shows that New Yorkers are significantly more disapproving of Trump than the U.S. as a whole and, not surprisingly, that this follows party, ideology, and geography, although it’s worth noting that Trump’s favorability rating upstate is solidly negative at 59% unfavorable.
The backlash is deep, affecting Democrats as well. What unifies New Yorkers is their view of the job performance of Trump and Congress. Trump’s performance ratings by New Yorkers, below, closely align with New Yorkers’ sentiments about both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
#3. Delegate Math will almost certainly produce a progressive constitutional convention.
Upon the “Yes” vote on November 7, New Yorkers will begin the process of collecting signatures for ballot provisions to run for Delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention. The New York State Constitution requires that three delegates will be chosen from each of the 63 state Senate Districts, plus 15 statewide delegates, for a total of 204 delegates.
In a reasonably conservative scenario, one can imagine that delegates reflect the outcomes of the 2016 presidential election, with the 15 statewide delegates proportionately split. If so, Democrats would have a nearly 2 to 1 lead over Republicans for delegates:
If the anti-Trump sentiment translates to the Delegate election, Democrats could enjoy a 3 to 1 dominance over the Republicans, leading to dominance over the convention.
As is the norm in any deliberative body, some consensus will be necessary but the majority will carry the day at the constitutional convention, a historic opportunity to create a vision for New York that reflects New York’s diversity.