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Changes to casino referendum could complicate election

A legal challenge to a ballot referendum allowing casinos in New York could cause havoc for county board of elections if it is successful.

State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin could decide on 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 the challenge was brought to 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 the county board 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. In Schenectady County, Quail said their policy 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.

Changes to ballots is not a new phenomenon, according to Quail. Legal challenges or primary elections that take a long time to resolve often create situations where ballots need to be redone.

The chances major changes will actually be necessary are slim, predicted Quail, who argued the case is without merit.

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. A poll released last week by the Siena Research Institute demonstrated that the positive language swayed public favor in support of the cause.

The referendum language, which has been criticized by good government groups, says, “The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

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