Casino ballot wording challenged in court

Posted at: 10/11/2013 12:17 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2013 5:17 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

ALBANY - In three and a half weeks, New York state voters will decide whether seven additional casinos can be placed around Upstate New York.

There is a major challenge to the wording of the question voters will be considering.

It was heard in an Albany courtroom on Friday morning.

If a reporter turned in copy as one-sided as the casino ballot question, there'd be a very serious conversation with his boss, maybe worse.

But the State Board of Elections is fine with the action they took changing the ballot question in a way critics complain pushes John Q. Voter toward saying “yes”.

The challenge was brought by a downstate attorney Eric Snyder, who argues the State Board of Elections did not conduct a fair process.

“I could not have watched that webcast, and knew what they are voting for. I believe the open meetings law, speaking substantively, requires that the public know what’s being voted on,” said Snyder.

The question to go before voters in three and a half weeks asks if they want to allow casinos to promote job growth, reduce taxes and provide money for education. Almost everything you'd like except baseball, apple pie and a certain make of American car. No mention of any problems gambling expansion might bring.

The language that was added to the ballot question at the Board of Elections meeting was never actually said at the July 29th meeting or otherwise publicized. Instead, Commissioners simply voted on some unstated technical changes.

Now the Elections attorney is saying it's too late to challenge. 

“You can’t…seem to challenge a ballot that’s gone out to the military already,” said Paul Collins, a State Board of Elections Attorney.

Board of Elections officials say anyone who wanted the exact ballot language could have filed a freedom of information request and it would have been supplied.

Judge Richard Platkin listened to the detailed, technical arguments for more than an hour.

Military ballots with the disputed casino language have already gone out.

Other ballots are being printed.

A forced change at this point would be very difficult.

Judge Platkin indicated he would probably rule in the middle of next week, but whatever he decides could be taken to a higher court.