Although there are no races for state or federal office on local ballots this fall, voters will have an unusually high number of statewide ballot questions to answer.
The question that has received the most attention is the casino expansion proposal. The state Legislature and governor agreed to a law that, with voter approval, would set the stage to allow up to seven new casinos in New York.
The other five questions deal with mandatory judge retirement age, sewage treatment facility debt, civil service credit for disabled veterans and land uses in two Adirondacks communities.
Behind all of these ballot questions are people in state government who are hoping the public answers in a certain way. But if you look at the wording of the ballot questions themselves, only the gambling expansion tries to influence the voter with some old-fashioned political spin.
"The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would 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. Shall the amendment be approved?"
Of course, whether seven new casinos will result in new job growth, more aid for schools or lower taxes is the subject of great debate. But clearly the special interest groups that want this question answered affirmatively -- and the lawmakers and governor who are under their influence -- want to do everything they can to make sure this measure gets approved.
If you look at the wording of the other proposals, there is no extra justification included.
Raising the retirement for judges has been discussed for years because people are working and living longer, and there's a great need for qualified justices. But none of that explanation will be on the ballot.
Sewer debt exclusions for municipalities have been crucial to enabling them to address critical infrastructure needs for these aging systems. You won't know that from reading the ballot question, though.
And that's for a good reason. Ballot questions are supposed to be worded carefully to not try to influence the outcome. An informed electorate should be trusted to do its homework and understand the possible consequences of the choices.
It's troubling that this principle was not followed with potentially the most divisive question to be put before New York state voters.