Slots On The Ballot?

| February 19, 2010 | 1 Comment
Slot machine.
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Maybe. Maybe Not

In 2008, voters of Anne Arundel County overwhelmingly approved slot machines in the County. The glitch was that the County needed to approve the proper zoning.  But as soon as one proposal came on the table for the Arundel Mills Mall, it seems a lot of NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) came out of the woodwork. It seems that everyone knew the intent of the voters–and that intent was to put them at one specified place–Laurel Park. The fact that the location parameters were well defined in the referendum seemed to fall on deaf ears and a a grass routes effort to overturn the initiative was begun.

This was bad news for the County Council as they know that elections are typically decided by very few voters and with an election year approaching, they did what most politicians would do–they stalled until their hand was forced. Ultimately, they did indeed side with the will of the voters and paved the way for slots.

Not So Fast

The NIMBYs mobilized and joined forces. It seems that the horse racing industry also wanted slots at Laurel Park and they decided to work together with the Stop Slots At Arundel Mills people to overturn the County Council’s decision. In order to do that, they needed to get nearly 20,000 signatures on a petition. At which time, it could be placed on the ballot to be voted on yet again.  Their drive seemed to be gaining some steam as the Jockey Club hired a firm to gather the signatures.

A Glitch

The Capital reported that the combined group presented 24,000 signatures to the Election Board. 19,000 were required, and only half that amount was needed to continue to gather signatures. It looked like the NIMBYs had a slam dunk.  But it seems that 17,961 of the 29,680 signatures submitted were rejected. Which of course begs the question, what means are they using to gather signatures? Are dead people signing? Non residents? Illegal immigrants?  19,000 is a tough number to get–just ask the folks that organized failed City Manager and Tax Cap petitions in Annapolis where 5,000 signatures were required.

What Now?

So, the NIMBYs and the Laurel Park people have until March 8, 2010 to submit more names. They officially need 18,790 legitimate signatures of registered voters in the County. Although they submitted 29,680, most have been determined to be ineligible. This leaves them with 18 days to collect an additional 7,071 legitimate signatures.

Can it be done? Certainly with the high percentage of disqualified signatures, the remaining ones will be scrutinized. We will know sometime in March; but at that point, it is only half the battle.

The NIMBYs and the track can get a signature at the local Walmart or by going door to door–but is it going to be that easy when it comes time to go to the polls in November?

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