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Suit wants constitutional convention to be on front of ballot

ALBANY — A good-government advocate is suing the state to move this November’s referendum on whether to have a constitutional convention to the front page of the ballot where it can’t be as easily be missed by voters.

The ballot is expected to carry numerous local political races on the front page. The statewide referendum is scheduled to be printed on the back of the paper ballot.

“This once-in-a-generation chance to reform state government is too important not to be on the front of the ballot,” said Evan A. Davis, former counsel to former Gov. Mario Cuomo. “The public won’t have another chance until 2037.”

His lawsuit against the state Board of Elections will be heard in state Supreme Court in Albany on Thursday. State Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly said the board received the lawsuit Friday and was still reviewing it. He had no immediate comment.

Voters are presented with the ballot question every 20 years. If approved, a constitutional convention will be held that can change any element of the constitution and add new measures. Supporters say they would seek tough anti-corruption measures such as term limits for legislators and other standards to reduce the influence of power and money in state politics. Opponents fear constitutional safeguards could be undone, including eliminating the guarantee of a pension for government and school workers and ending bans on development in environmentally sensitive areas of the Adirondack and Catskill state parks.

It’s not the first time the form of a ballot was the subject of a lawsuit.

In 2013, private attorney Eric Snyder sued the state Board of Elections over the referendum pushed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to overturn the constitutional ban on Las Vegas-style casinos that aren’t owned by Native American tribes.

The question to voters on the ballot had been re-written from the traditional bare-bones description to one that gave a rosy spin to casinos and promised jobs, additional revenue for schools and lower taxes, all of which was disputed by opponents of more gambling.

Snyder lost that suit.

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