Lo­cals weigh in on state bal­lot ques­tions

Out­comes to af­fect casino sup­port of ed­u­ca­tion, and voter regis­tra­tion

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com

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.

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