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New Yorkers began voting Saturday in elections for local and county offices in the early voting period, which will run until October 31.

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In addition to deciding the next mayors of cities including Buffalo and New York, people will vote on five proposed constitutional amendments, one to create the right to clean air and water, and two that make voting easier.

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Early voting was started in the state for the first time in 2019. More than 2.5 million people in New York voted early in last year’s presidential election.

Municipalities across the state have set up hundreds of early polling places for this year’s contests, which include elections for school boards, district attorneys, county supervisors and some vacant state legislative seats. People can also vote by mail or in person on Election Day on November 2.

Many eyes will be on the New York City mayoral race between Democrat Eric Adams and Republican Curtis Sliva.

New York City has just 106 polling places available for early voting, but there will be more than 1,200 polling places on Election Day.

A proposed constitutional change on the ballot would remove a requirement that people must register to vote at least 10 days before an election. Doing so could allow the legislature to pass a law allowing people to cast their ballots on the same day.

Voters can also remove a constitutional restriction that limits absentee voting to New Yorkers who are ill, physically handicapped or out of the country.

Emergency rules during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed any New Yorker fearing the virus to vote by mail, but that extension could go away when the threat is over.

Democrats say voting reforms will boost turnout. Republicans have argued that New York should expand mail-in voting only if it boosts voter identification requirements.

New York may also be among a handful of states that have passed constitutional rights giving people the right to a clean environment.

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Proponents say the amendment would require the government to consider environmental impacts early in policy-making and would allow New Yorkers to sue for failing to do so. They also say it will help fight racism in government decisions about pollution and heavy industry.

Critics, including Republicans and New York’s Lawsuit Reform Alliance, say the constitutional right will only lead to a plethora of costly lawsuits.

Another ballot measure would replace New York’s process of drawing the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts.

Among other things, it would limit the number of state senators to 63 and require New York to count those imprisoned at their place of last residence, not the place where they are imprisoned.

It would also change some of the deadlines for an independent commission that is supposed to produce non-partisan political maps and allow lawmakers to approve those proposed maps with a simple majority vote. Currently, if the Assembly and Senate are controlled by the same party, a two-thirds vote is required.

Lawmakers can also reject the commission’s maps and pass their own maps with 60% of the vote.

Republicans, as well as the League of Women Voters of New York State, have blasted the ballot measure for giving too much power to the Democratic supermajority.

“Gerrymandering is a threat to our ability to conduct meaningful and fair elections, and it is proposed by voters to ensure that partisan political agendas do not impair our political process,” said Assembly member Jeff Gallahan, a Western New York Republican. he said.

This year, the commission, working on redrawing political districts based on new census data, has yet to agree a map. This shows that lawmakers themselves can draw the lines.

In New York City, voters will choose a successor in the state Senate to Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, who gave up his seat to join the administration of Gov.

To find out where you can cast your ballot in the next 11 days, go here vote.nyc

with Associated Press.