Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Slots, voting questions OK'd

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Maryland's Secretary of State approved ballot language on Monday that will ask voters whether to legalize slot machine gambling and whether to allow the General Assembly to permit early voting.

The slots referendum, which will appear second of the statewide questions on the Nov. 4 ballot, states that the proposed amendment "Authorizes the State to issue up to five video lottery licenses for the purpose of raising revenue for education of children in public schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, public school construction and improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and higher education institutions."

The question on early voting "Authorizes the General Assembly to enact legislation to allow qualified voters to vote at polling places inside or outside of their election districts or wards and to vote up to two weeks before an election." It also allows the legislature to pass legislation allowing voting by absentee ballot.

For the complete language go to: www.elections.state.md.us.

In a statement released Monday, Maryland Secretary of State John P. McDonough said he relied on John T. Willis, a professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore who served as Secretary of State under Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), and the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

McDonough added what he called "one significant deviation" from the language approved by the legislature — adding the words "Slot Machines" in parenthesis in the title of the question.

"Slot machines" is the more commonly used name for the devices referred to in the proposed amendment as "video lottery terminals," McDonough said.

Still, others took issue with what McDonough justified as a strict loyalty to the language approved by the legislature.

"To my reading, it's a cheerleading document," said Aaron Meisner, chairman of Stop Slots Maryland. "It makes no mention of the word slot machine. It makes no mention of the word gambling. It makes no mention of the fact that over 40 percent of the revenues will go towards the gambling industry."