NY Legislature

Senators work In the Senate chamber at the state Capitol during the last day of the legislative session on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Hans Pennink

A majority of New York voters oppose holding a constitutional convention, according to a new Siena College poll.

The survey of 814 likely voters found 57 percent will vote "no" on the question of whether there should be a constitutional convention. One-quarter of respondents said they will vote "yes" and 18 percent said they didn't know or had no opinion. 

There is strong opposition to the constitutional convention among members of both parties and other demographic groups. More than two-thirds of union household members said they would vote no. Labor groups, especially public employee unions, have been leading the campaign against the convention. 

Most voters agree that holding a constitutional convention will be "an expensive waste of time," according to the poll. Sixty percent of voters believe it would be, while 29 percent believe it's a great opportunity to improve the constitution. 

"Upstaters, downstaters and voters from all parties also strongly agree that (a constitutional convention) is more likely to be an expensive waste of time where nothing good will get done than it is to be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the lives and safeguard the rights of New Yorkers," Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said. 

While voters don't want a constitutional convention, there are issues they support that could be discussed at the gathering. There is strong support (84 to 13 percent) for imposing term limits on members of the state Legislature. Nearly the same number of voters (79 to 19 percent) endorse term limits for the governor and other statewide elected officials. 

More than three-quarters of voters support eliminating the LLC loophole, a provision in state law that allows limited liability corporations to donate large sums to political candidates and committees. 

By a 74 to 17 percent margin, voters support allowing proposed laws to be considered through a ballot initiative process. And 65 percent of voters support establishing a full-time state Legislature and banning outside income for lawmakers. 

Voters oppose legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, revising policies protecting the Adirondacks and limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees. 

The state constitution mandates that voters are asked every 20 years whether a convention should be held. The question was last asked in 1997 and voters opted not to allow a convention to proceed. 

If New Yorkers vote "yes," delegates would be elected in 2018. Each of New York's 63 state Senate districts would elect three delegates. There would also be 15 at-large delegates. 

The convention would be held at the Capitol in 2019. 

Supporters of the convention include many good government groups and some elected officials, including Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. 

The coalition that opposes a constitutional convention includes several labor groups, the Conservative Party, Working Families Party and organizations representing both sides of the abortion debate. 

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. 

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