Locals weigh in on state ballot questions
Outcomes to affect casino support of education, and voter registration
It is too late to stop the presses. The ballots for the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election have been finalized and on it are two statewide questions with a lot of local implications for casino revenue benefiting education, and for Election Day voting. A constitutional amendment does not require the governor’s signature.
Question 1, “Education — Commercial Gaming Revenues,” is a constitu- tional amendment that would require Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to provide in the annual budget submission supplemental state funding for public education through the use of commercial gaming revenue. If passed by voters, it would begin in fiscal 2020. The supplemental funding must be in addition to the state funding provided through the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002.
“Our answer is vote yes on Question 1. That is Y-E-S in all caps,” Calvert Education Association President Dona Ostenso said in an interview with The Calvert Recorder.
Ostenso, who has been with Calvert Coun- ty Public Schools for 30 years, said an initial gaming effort in 2012 put casino revenue into an education trust fund, but all it did was replace the money the state was spending.
“Instead of increasing, it was just maintaining
the same levels,” Ostenso said. “Voting yes will increase the budget because this money will be more than they have to spend.”
Ostenso said it will not happen overnight, as the increased funding will come in increments over the next four years. Regardless of the wait, the local teachers union president said it will be a welcome addition, as the current state funding formula is outdated and does not account for the increased use of technology in schools or college-readiness programs.
The amendment stipulates the supplemental funding must total at least $125 million in fiscal 2020, $250 million in fiscal 2021 and $375 million in fiscal 2022. In the fiscal years afterwards, 100 percent of gaming revenues will be dedicated to public education as supplemental funding.
Question 2, “Elective Franchise — Registration and Voting at Precinct Polling Place,” is a constitutional amendment that authorizes the Maryland General Assembly to allow qualified individuals to register to vote at a precinct polling place on Election Day and vote on that same day.
Currently, Maryland closes voter registration before Election Day and only allows same-day registration during the early voting period. If the amendment passes, the legislature would be authorized to expand same-day voter registration to include Election Day and would amend that requirement to allow qualified individuals to register and vote on Election Day.
The legislature would also have the power to pass legislation that would determine the specific procedures to be followed to implement voter registration at precinct polling places on Election Day.
“It’s not that they can register on Election Day, it’s that they can register and vote on the same day and have their vote count without providing proof of citizenship,” Calvert County Republican Central Committee Chairman Ella Ennis said in an interview.
Ennis, who has been continually vocal about Maryland’s “lax voter-registration laws” and voter integrity, shared with the Recorder a newsletter the local GOP committee distributed in late September encouraging readers to vote against the constitutional amendment that would allow same-day registration and voting at the precinct polling place on Election Day.
In the newsletter, the GOP lists eight reasons to oppose the initiative, to include that each time an ineligible person votes it crosses out the vote of an eligible voter, that illegal voting discourages eligible voters from voting and that the process is open to fraud because there is no verification — not even a mailing to the listed address — before votes are counted.
“The amendment proposed does not enact a law to allow eligible voters to register on Elec- tion Day, but it removes the Constitutional prohibition,” Calvert County Democratic Central Committee Chairman David Salazar said in an email to the Recorder. “Removing this restriction simply opens the door for a conversation about voter registration and election security.”
Salazar pointed out that just before the primary election this past June, Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration announced that over 80,000 voter registrations were not properly updated.
“This announcement came after voter registration and Early Voting had closed, so many voters had no opportunity to correct the error before the polls opened,” Salazar said.
The chairman also pointed out that the practice of periodical purges in voter rolls to combat potential voter fraud could cause eligible voters to be removed from the rolls without their knowledge due to a few simple missed form letters.
“If Election Day voter registration is available, then any mistakes made either on the part of the voter or on the part of the Board of Elections can be corrected at the polls,” Salazar stated.
Salazar said 16 other states and the district participate in this “bipartisan effort” toward access to the polls.
“A yes vote on this ballot initiative is the first step in a path towards ensuring that any eligible voter who wishes to vote, can vote,” Salazar said.