This comes in light of last year’s optimistic language that was used to describe to the state’s casino amendment, which was approved by voters — now a group of good government groups and others are calling for neutral language on the upcoming redistricting ballot.
Today a coalition of good government groups, environmental and immigrant advocates, and legal organizations urged the New York State Boards of Elections and Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman to insure that ballot language for the redistricting amendment, which will appear on the November ballot, is strictly neutral and not biased. While the Board of Elections is responsible for approving the language, the Board is advised by the Office of the Attorney General, which proposes language to the Board. The coalition sent the attached letter outlining their arguments and offering the following draft language:
“The proposed amendment to Article 3 of the Constitution would allow New York State’s legislative leaders to appoint a bipartisan commission to establish new state legislative and congressional district lines every ten years pursuant to stated criteria with final approval by the Legislature. Shall the amendment be approved?”
The Board of Elections is expected to adopt ballot language at its next meeting on August 1st.
“Voters expect that elections will be conducted fairly and without favor,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “It would be unacceptable for the ballot language, which describes a measure, to favor its passage or defeat. Common Cause/NY believes that the issue of prejudicial or biased ballot language transcends any position on the substance of a referendum. We urge the Board of Elections to adopt the neutral language our groups have proposed.”
“We all remember the controversy last year about the ballot language regarding casinos. This year’s amendment on redistricting must not be a repeat – the Board of Elections and the Attorney General have a chance to show their commitment to an unbiased democracy by only approving objective language such as what is proposed here,” said Jesse Laymon, Executive Director of EffectiveNY. “It would be a travesty, for example, if the ballot language described the proposed new redistricting panel as ‘independent’, when in fact it would be appointed by the Senate and Assembly leadership.”
Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, affirmed: “Ballot language should be as impartial as possible to ensure that the vote reflects the true will of New Yorkers. We therefore ask the Board of Elections to adopt our coalition’s draft language on the redistricting referendum.”
“New Yorkers deserve ballot language that is honest, not spun when it comes to deciding whether to amend the state constitution. This isn’t the place for political puffery. The state Board of Elections must not lose sight of the fact they work for the public, not the political parties or high ranking politicians,” added Blair Horner, Legislative Director of NYPIRG.
In the past, the Board of Elections has adopted ballot descriptions which were considered to describe the referendum on the ballot in a way that was not purely factual, but included arguments in favor of passage. Last year, the state Board of Elections was widely criticized for the language which appeared on the ballot describing the proposed gambling amendment, which was placed before the voters last November.