Judge Rejects Casino Rosy Referendum Challenge

ALBANY (AP) -

A judge on Wednesday dismissed a legal challenge to the rewording of a referendum on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to authorize seven more casinos in New York, a move that outraged good-government advocates as an attempt to dupe voters into approving the measure.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin ruled that Brooklyn lawyer Eric Snyder’s lawsuit was filed too late and lacked legal merit. Snyder vowed to appeal to the state Appellate Division.

Snyder argued that the lawsuit was filed beyond a 14-day statute of limitations only because the state didn’t post its unexpected rewording until days after the deadline to sue.

Snyder contested the language of the Nov. 5 ballot proposition, claiming it was biased in favor of approval. It was reworded by the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders to promise benefits including jobs, lower taxes and school aid without mentioning potential downsides such as problem gambling and crime.

The referendum was then adopted July 29 by the state Board of Elections in a meeting that never identified the specific additions. The board posted the rewording on its website Aug. 23, days after the deadline to file a legal challenge to the language. The rewording didn’t become widely known until news articles publicized it Sept. 12.

The judge’s decision echoes the state argument that the referendum doesn’t constitute illegal advocacy for a “yes” vote.

“The claim of improper advocacy is barred by the statute of limitations,” Platkin wrote. “The claim that the [board] exceeded its authority in deviating from the attorney general’s proposed ballot and abstract language is both untimely and lacking in legal merit.”

Snyder rejected the judge’s decision and called the board’s actions underhanded.

“The board waited almost four weeks — after the time period to raise a court challenge had passed — before making the new wording public,” he said. “Transparency and proper notice are fundamental rights in this country, and that includes New York.”

He cites a footnote in the decision that states “the court expresses no view” on the merits of the argument over whether it’s legal or proper to use public money to advocate for a position.

“I’m slack-jawed,” Snyder said. “The argument that it’s advocacy at the public expense is thrown out on a technicality.”

Meanwhile, the casino referendum was the subject of a debate at Syracuse University Wednesday evening. At the end, the audience was scheduled to vote by walking out one of two doors.