Can ballot placement prevent a constitutional convention?

When voters head to the polls in November, Evan Davis wants the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention literally front and center. 

"It's not a yes or no thing. It's a everyone-voting kind of thing; everyone having an opportunity to cast their vote," said Davis, a former counsel to Governor Mario Cuomo.

He's suing the state Board of Elections in order to require that question over whether to hold a convention to revise the constitution be placed on the front of voters' ballots. A ruling is expected in the coming weeks.

"This is the first time that the issue of where the constitutional convention question should be on the ballot is before the courts," Davis said.

The question of where to place ballot questions hasn't been a problem in recent history. But when New York changed from lever voting machines to paper ballots, some worried whether voters would miss the referendum questions.

"We want everyone to vote, and we believe that if you put the question on the back, some people are going to miss it," Davis said.

For the New York Public Interest Research Group, the question of ballot placement -- and informing voters of the once-every-20-year vote on the convention -- is a key one as well.

"This is part of the problem with any of these constitutional questions or any sort of referendum, is how do voters know when they get to the polling place is what should they be looking for, and what do they think about those questions when they get there," said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner.

NYPIRG does not officially have a position on the convention vote. But Horner says the group has the chance to act as a referee of sorts when it comes to sorting out the facts and fiction of a convention. 

"It's important to sort of play the role, to the extent that we can, call balls and strikes on this issue, because there's going to be a lot of information coming out from proponents and opponents," Horner said.

In the past, New Yorkers have rejected holding a convention, and the last one was approved in 1967. No changes to the constitution, however, were approved.

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