Slot-Machine Referendum A Step Closer To Voting Booth

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Maryland's highest court cleared the way yesterday for the state's referendum on slot machines, affirming a lower court's ruling that ordered a one-word change in ballot language to clarify how revenue from slots would be distributed.

The Court of Appeals took the case on short notice, reviewing a ruling from last week, because the issue had to be resolved before state officials could begin printing ballots for Election Day on Nov. 4.

Critics of the slots initiative argued that the ballot language could lead voters to believe that all slots proceeds would go to education when, in fact, shares of the proceeds would be earmarked for the racing industry, the state lottery and other public and private purposes.

A panel of judges in Anne Arundel Circuit Court said last Wednesday that the ballot language, drafted by the secretary of state, was misleading. The court ordered the state to revise the text to say education is the "primary" purpose -- a change intended to acknowledge that schools would not be the only recipients of slots revenue.

The state agreed to the change. But Irwin R. Kramer, the attorney for those challenging the ballot language, said the Circuit Court did not go far enough. Kramer appealed to the Court of Appeals, which held oral arguments yesterday.

Kramer sought a more complete revision of the ballot language. He argued that it should list either all or none of the entities that would share revenue from slots.

In announcing its decision yesterday, the court said a "majority" of the seven judges agreed with the lower court's decision. The court said an opinion would be forthcoming.

In a statement, the office of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said, "It's time for the opponents of slots to accept the decision of the courts and for all groups interested in the slots issue to present their arguments to the voters."

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