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Poll: Voters oppose constitutional convention 57% to 25%

Labor union members and supporters rally for better

Labor union members and supporters rally for better wages in New York on May 7, 2015. Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File

ALBANY — A poll released Wednesday found that public opinion has flipped to opposing a constitutional convention after public worker unions spent more than $1 million on promotions against it.

Voters will decide whether to hold a convention Nov. 7.

Fifty-seven percent of voters oppose a constitutional convention compared with 25 percent who supported it, according to the Siena College Research Institute poll. In October, 44 percent of voters supported a convention and 39 percent opposed it.

The poll, however, also found that voters strongly support issues that have long been blocked in the State Legislature, but which could be enacted in a constitutional convention of delegates elected statewide. The poll found 84 percent of voters support term limits for legislators; 79 percent term limits for the governor and other statewide officials; 77 percent oppose the loophole in campaign finance law that allows corporations to contribute almost limitless amounts of money to politicians; and 65 percent said lawmakers shouldn’t be allowed to have outside jobs, which have led to some of Albany’s biggest corruption cases.

However, there is no guarantee the agenda of a convention would include these measures. That agenda would be set by the elected delegates. Opponents of a convention fear a convention could erode or eliminate collective bargaining rights, the protections against development in forest preserves in the Adirondacks and Catskills, and other issues.

Any recommendations from the convention would need voter approval in separate referenda.

The constitution requires that voters get a chance every 20 years to authorize a convention to overhaul how state government operates, spends and borrows.

The poll questioned 814 likely New York voters from Oct. 25 through Sunday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

New Yorkers Against Corruption, a public workers union-backed group. spent $1.1 million in the last three weeks to promote a “no” vote and still has $1.2 million left to spend after six-figure donations from public worker unions, state records show. Donations included $500,000 from the New York State United Teachers union and $350,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

The two leading groups led by good-government advocates that are pushing to hold a constitutional convention are the New York People’s Convention and the Committee for a Constitutional Convention. They reported far less spending in the Board of Elections reports.

The New York People’s Convention raised $85,361 since the last state financial filing on Oct. 11. The group $30,613 left, records showed.

The Committee for a Constitutional Convention has $12,404 after spending $42,051 since Oct. 11. It collected $28,666 in contributions during that time.

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