Challenge to casino question could pose problem for election officials

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
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— A legal challenge to a ballot referendum allowing casinos in New York could cause havoc for local election administrators if it is successful.

State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin could decide Friday that the state Board of Elections acted improperly when it wrote the casino referendum in an extremely positive fashion, which plaintiff Eric Snyder, a Brooklyn attorney, alleges was done to sway the results of the referendum. Lawyers for the state Board of Elections argue that the challenge was brought too late and shouldn’t be considered.

If the language is tossed out, Schenectady County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Brian Quail said the result would be a mess for county boards of elections around the state, which are responsible for conducting this fall’s general election.

The problem starts with the fact that absentee ballots are already being sent out and they include the current ballot language. Quail said the policy in Schenectady County is to reissue absentee ballots in the result of a ballot change. When this has happened in the past, it has cost the county an additional $5,000, he said.

Aside from absentee ballots, Quail predicted the county would finish printing its 70,000 Election Day ballots by the time a ruling is made. So far the county has printed about half of these ballots. “For any board of elections, it would be a serious problem,” he said.

Saratoga County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Roger Schiera said any changes would like be expensive and confusing to the public. His office is currently readying its ballots.

He said the required fix, if the current language was tossed out, would either be dictated by the judge’s ruling or determined by the state Board of Elections consulting with local boards of elections.

Ballot changes are not new or novel, according to Quail. Legal challenges or primary elections that take a long time to resolve often create situations where ballots need to be redone.

Because of a court decision in September regarding the Alliance Party in Schenectady, Quail said, “If this was a federal year, we would have had issues with the ballots this year.”

Snyder, who is opposed to expanding gambling in the state, is arguing in his suit that the state BOE exceeded its authority when it included advocacy language in the referendum.The suit asks the court to prevent the referendum vote from happening and wants the state BOE to stop advocating in favor of the amendment. If a referendum is held, he wants the advocacy language removed from the ballot.

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