Spin Cycle

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ALBANY – A lower court judge has ruled to keep the referendum question on whether to hold a state constitutional convention on the backside of ballots that go to voters in November.

But the former state counsel to Gov. Mario Cuomo who sued to force the move said he will appeal the decision.

“The question is mandated by the state Constitution, arises once every 20 years, and consists of only 13 words,” said Evan A. Davis. He is an attorney who is part of Committee for a Constitutional Convention pushing for a “yes” vote in November so a constitution convention could revamp how Albany works. “When placed on the back of the ballot, too many voters will not see it and will lose their constitutional right to correct state government.”

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State Supreme Court Justice Richard J. McNally Jr. Thursday in Albany ruled against Davis’ challenge of the decision by the state Board of Elections to put the ballot question on the back of the ballots. Local races will dominate the front page.

The justice ruled the constitution “does not indicate where on the ballot (the referendum question) must appear. To grant relief … would require the court to read into Article 19 requirements that simply do not exist.”

The state Board of Elections has consistently placed referendum questions on the back page since 2010, when the state abandoned mechanical lever voting machines on which all races and questions were on one side. The old lever-action machines were replaced with electronic optical scanning machines that read paper ballots.

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Davis, however, argued that there is no precedent for putting constitutional convention questions on the back side of ballots. He said the ballot question, which is automatically presented to voters every 20 years, was last placed on ballots in 1997. That’s well before the lever machines were replaced in 2010.

If voters approve the question, a constitutional convention of separately elected citizens will be able to rewrite any and all parts of the state constitution including protections or restrictions and abortion and gun control, ethics measures including term limits, and the restriction on development in areas of the Adirondacks and Catskills to protect the environment (http://nwsdy.li/2ve6yn3).