Judge Considers Challenge to NY Casino Referendum

ALBANY (AP) -

The state Board of Elections on Friday blamed logistics and an employee who was out sick for failing to post the much-criticized rewording of New York’s casino referendum online until after the deadline to challenge it.

In court Friday, the state sought to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the unusual wording of the referendum by saying it was filed too late. The deadline was Aug. 19. The Board of Elections posted the language Aug. 23, four weeks after the board said it finalized the wording.

“I have no comment on that,” said Brooklyn lawyer Eric Snyder, who brought the suit. “I think it speaks for itself.”

The lawsuit challenges the referendum Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to authorize his plan for seven casinos. The Nov. 5 referendum was rewritten by the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders and approved by the Board of Elections. The board added unusually rosy language that promises jobs, lower taxes and more school aid, all of which is disputed. None of the drawbacks, such as crime and addiction, were mentioned.

State law prohibits using public funds to sway voters on a referendum.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin could rule to dismiss or advance the case sometime this week.

A recent Siena College poll found the one-sided version moved voters to favor the referendum slightly. New Yorkers have long been split on the issue.

The New York Times offered the latest critical editorial on the issue Friday, urging Platkin to rule in Snyder’s favor because the referendum is “advocacy language, pure and simple” and because the state posted the wording publicly after the deadline to challenge it.

Snyder argued the Board of Elections overstepped its authority to advocate for the referendum in what is supposed to be a just-the-facts account so voters can decide. The referendum was rewritten from neutral wording provided by the state attorney generaloffice.

“The delay was not intentional,” said board spokesman Tom Connolly after the court appearance. “This was a logistic issue.” He said the illness of a worker in the information technology department contributed to the delay in putting the public referendum online.

“It’s bitterly ironic that I am accused of unreasonable delay when it took them 25 days to hit that button,” Snyder said.