A government watchdog group is challenging the wording of a New York ballot question on redistricting, saying it is deceptive and should be replaced with more neutral language.
A lawsuit announced Tuesday by Common Cause-New York seeks to reword the referendum, which critics say is misleading and could confuse voters into thinking they're voting for an independent redistricting commission.
The question on the November ballot asks voters to authorize a new commission to handle redistricting beginning in 2022. That's the next time the state's political districts will be redrawn to account for population changes.
The referendum says the commission will be independent, even though top lawmakers would pick eight of its 10 members. The Legislature also would have the power to reject any redistricting proposal from the commission and could substitute its own plan in its place.
"This is a commission that is independent in name only," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Supreme Court in Albany.
Lerner's group is one of several good-government organizations that have urged voters to reject the proposal, which was supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top lawmakers. Lerner said the state deserves a better model that is truly independent.
"Too many people will walk into the polling place, they'll get their ballot and it will be the first they've heard about this," she said. "That's why the language needs to be neutral, so voters have a reasonable opportunity to make up their own minds."
State political districts are redrawn every decade in a process that good-government groups have long said is designed to protect incumbents. Sitting state lawmakers have been defeated in elections only 55 times in the thousands of legislative races held in the past 30 years.