Tioga Downs lets its feelings be known in no uncertain terms regarding New York State’s upcoming casino referendum by voters. (Image source: Ithacajournal.com)

A New York State judge has rejected a challenge to the wording of New York’s upcoming casino referendum, paving the way for voters in the state to vote on the measure in November.

The lawsuit was dismissed by State Supreme Court Justice Richard M. Platkin, who found the legal challenge to be “untimely and lacking in legal merit.”

Delayed Vote Shot Down

That was a big blow to opponents of the measure, who had hoped that they could delay a vote, or at least change the wording that would appear on the ballot. The case was brought up by Brooklyn bankruptcy lawyer Eric J. Snyder, who objected to the language used in the referendum question. On the ballot, the measure will be described as “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”

That was the language that had been approved by the State Board of Elections in July, which consulted with Governor Andrew Cuomo to craft the measure. The governor is a strong supporter of the measure, and crafted a number of compromises and deals with different interests in the state to make such a proposal possible.

However, Snyder and others said that the language being used was unfair. Since the language included suggested positive outcomes of the casino expansion, it could unfairly bias the results of the referendum. These concerns gained additional merit when a poll by Siena College found that support for the ballot referendum increased by nine percentage points when the positive language was included, compared to when more neutral language had been used.

Justice Platkin dismissed these claims, though. He said that Snyder’s lawsuit was filed far after the 14-day window in which challenges to ballot-language are permitted had passed. That window began on August 19 – or possibly August 23, according to Snyder, though that would have made little difference – and the challenge was not made until October 1.

Naturally, the state was happy that their legal arguments were accepted, and that the vote would go on as planned.

“We’re pleased that Judge Platkin accepted the legal arguments which we raised and that the election process can continue moving forward,” said Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly.

Opponents Voice Disappointment

Meanwhile, opponents of the measure were predictably let down by the decision.

“We’re disappointed that the judge chose to block a legitimate discussion on the merits of whether the state gamed the language of the casino amendment to tilt New Yorkers to a yes vote,” said a statement by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

But Snyder says that he’s not done yet. He plans to seek emergency relief from the appellate courts, and points out that the Board of Elections had the opportunity to use an earlier version of the referendum suggested by the state attorney general’s office that did not include the “advocacy language.”

“Ignoring the attorney general’s recommendation, the Board of Elections changed the neutrally worded casino amendment by adding language to gain voter support,” Snyder told The New York Times.

If the measure should pass, it would bring up to seven new casino resorts to selected regions of the Empire State. They would join a number of existing casinos that are owned and operated by Native American groups throughout the area.