Redistricting advocates call for ‘strictly neutral’ ballot language

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  • Susan Lerner

Good government groups proposed ballot language on Thursday for a constitutional amendment on redistricting that will come before voters in November, in an effort to ensure that the phrasing is “strictly neutral and not biased.”

The amendment, which would create a new commission to reform the redistricting process, was passed by the Legislature in 2012 and again in 2013, clearing the way for a ballot vote in November.

In a letter to the state Board of Elections, Common Cause/NY, the New York Public Interest Research Group and and EffectiveNY pushed for the following 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 is expected to adopt ballot language at a meeting on Friday.

The three good government groups have previously called for voters to reject the amendment, arguing it does not make the process sufficiently independent from the Legislature. 

“Voters expect that elections will be conducted fairly and without favor,” Common Cause executive director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “It would be unacceptable for the ballot language, which describes a measure, to favor its passage or defeat.”

The groups criticized what they said was a positive slant in the language that appeared on the ballot in November 2013, when voters approved Las Vegas-style casinos in New York. That amended ballot question asked whether to “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.”