THE SLOTS gambling initiative has finally been terminated by the D.C. Court of Appeals, and not a day too soon. If the Citizens Committee for the D.C. Video Lottery Terminal Initiative had gotten its way, the slots measure would have appeared on the November ballot. Instead, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics refused to ignore the gross irregularities discovered in July's petition drive, which it concluded was so "polluted" that all petition sheets circulated and signatures gathered required invalidation. Despite arguments raised by the lawyer for the slots initiative -- former D.C. Council member John Ray -- the elections board rightly declined to certify the initiative, and this week a three-judge panel affirmed that decision.
D.C. residents offended by attempts by outside gambling interests to circumvent the District's legislative and regulatory authorities can be pleased that those efforts have been thwarted. But residents have won an even larger victory. The elections board's decision to strike all of the petition sheets generated by the Citizens Committee's contractor preserved the integrity of the District's ballot process. Those weren't minor infractions brought to the board's attention by Dorothy Brizill, executive director of DCWatch; Regina James, a Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner; and other religious and community activists fighting to block the gambling initiative. The elections board, chaired by former federal prosecutor Wilma A. Lewis, conducted a nine-day public inquiry and found, as she reported, "a systemic pattern of wrongdoing" and a "pervasive pattern of fraud, forgeries and other improprieties." Witnesses, Ms. Lewis noted, had testified "not to individual acts of wrongdoing in an otherwise lawfully functioning system, but to an operation in which false signings were an established practice." The magnitude of the wrongdoing warranted the board's harsh actions and the Court of Appeals' gratifying affirmation of them.