Vote yes to both bal­lot ques­tions

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

In ad­di­tion to all of the state and county races in play for the gen­eral elec­tion, Charles County vot­ers, along with the rest of the state, will have two con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions to con­sider. One has to do with nail­ing down a money source for pub­lic schools, while the other deals with adding even more con­ve­nience to voter regis­tra­tion.

We sug­gest you vote yes to both bal­lot is­sues.

Some­times these ques­tions are mere for­mal­i­ties, or have more to do with other ar­eas of the state. But some­times, they can rep­re­sent fun­da­men­tal changes in the way things in gov­ern­ment get done.

As for the two ques­tions on the bal­lot this year, let’s ex­am­ine them one at a time. Ques­tion 1 would more firmly ded­i­cate casino tax rev­enue to sup­ple­ment pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. That’s a good idea, and is an ap­pro­pri­ate way for the state’s six casi­nos (the clos­est to us is MGM Na­tional Har­bor) to give back to the com­mu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Lot­tery, 49 per­cent of that money is al­ready sup­posed by be ear­marked for ed­u­ca­tion (33 per­cent of the take goes back to the casino own­ers, and the rest is spread to sup­ple­ment horse rac­ing and other en­deav­ors, with 1.5 per­cent go­ing to Mary­land small busi­nesses). What this so-called “Fix the Fund” ini­tia­tive would do is cre­ate a “lock­box” for that school fund­ing. Mary­land gov­er­nors have been known to do some cre­ative (and com­pletely le­gal) shuf­fling of gam­bling funds into other pots. This amend­ment would stop that money move­ment and di­rect it to schools.

Mary­land has had a lot­tery since 1973 (af­ter vot­ers in­vited it in 1972), then added keno games 20 years later. In 2008, a state ref­er­en­dum al­lowed casino gam­bling, and the first such es­tab­lish­ment opened two years later. In this space, we won’t get into a long ar­gu­ment about how these means for gam­bling (mostly the lot­tery it­self) amount to a tax on the poor, draw­ing money from those who can of­ten least af­ford to lose it. Re­gard­ing this ques­tion, we’ll just say if folks are go­ing to gam­ble any­way, it makes sense for our schools to ben­e­fit as al­ways promised.

Ques­tion 2 would al­low peo­ple to reg­is­ter to vote and cast their bal­lot on the same day, as is al­ready the case in 16 other states. That con­ve­nience is al­ready in place here in Mary­land dur­ing early vot­ing, and should be per­mit­ted on Elec­tion Day as well. If ac­cepted, it would kick in as soon as 2020.

If adopted, the law would use the same pro­ce­dures now in place for early vot­ing, such as ask­ing for po­ten­tial vot­ers to show a driver’s li­cense or other state-is­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. This should calm those fear­ing voter fraud.

And while there cer­tainly is enough time and ways for peo­ple to reg­is­ter as usual — such as at the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the lo­cal board of elec­tions and on­line — giv­ing peo­ple an­other op­tion can’t be a bad thing. What’s wrong with mak­ing the elec­tion process in Mary­land as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble?

So when you see the two bal­lot ques­tions this fall, vote yes to both.

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