February 22, 2018
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What the BDN believes about Tuesday’s referendums

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Elizabeth Milliken of Old Orchard Beach looks toward her husband, who was playing a nearby slot machine, at Hollywood Slots in Bangor in 2009.

Four statewide and one Penobscot County referendum questions are on Tuesday’s ballot. So are several local ordinance questions and town and city council elections. Voting is the essential component of American democracy. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to vote.

Here are the positions the Bangor Daily News has taken on the referendum questions:

Yes on Question 1

The debate over Question 1 boils down to a clash between facts and fears. The facts favor repealing the law that ended same-day voter registration, which is why a yes vote is both responsible and right.

For nearly 40 years, Maine allowed same-day voter registration. Not only did the law not leave a trail of widespread voter fraud, as opponents of same-day registration have suggested, but it achieved something of vital importance to a functioning democratic system of governing. Maine consistently tops or nearly tops the list of states for percentage of voter turnout.

The arguments for changing the same-day registration system are reasonable: expecting people to register in the 11-plus-months before Election Day. And giving Maine’s conscientious municipal clerks more time to process new voters seems fair.

But this reflects an ideal, not reality.

Voters often show up at their polling place to find they’ve been inexplicably purged from the rolls. If the law is not repealed, they would not be able to vote (though they would be allowed a provisional ballot). Far more people work two or more jobs, live in rental housing and move often, struggle to find transportation and barely find time on Election Day to cast their ballot. Asking them to also register in advance will affect their access to voting.

Fears of fraud should be trumped by the facts here in Maine. Vote yes on Question 1.

Yes on Question 2

The proposal to build a slots casino affiliated with the Scarborough Downs harness racing track in Biddeford and a track and a casino in Calais is worthy of voter approval. A yes vote on Question 2 is responsible, even though the casinos won’t bring Maine the kind of sustainable, equitable and far-reaching prosperity it needs.

The cultural and moral taboo on casino gambling in Maine is fading because of the mostly benign effect seen from Hollywood Slots, the Bangor casino affiliated with the Bangor harness racing track. It draws customers who willingly open their wallets and spend; it may not be money they can afford to lose, but that happens at lots of other businesses as well.

The economy, the worst since the Great Depression, makes approving a multimillion-dollar building investment with the construction and service jobs that come with it very appealing.

It’s time to stop turning down bids for a Southern Maine and Washington County casino. A yes vote on Question 2 is the right choice.

No on Question 3

The Lewiston casino proposal, a unique concept developed by city officials to revive the downtown, is in the wrong place and comes at the wrong time. It should be defeated.

The project is marred by its location on the state map. If it wins approval, and the Biddeford and Washington County casinos are passed by voters, the state will have gone from one licensed casino (in Bangor) to five in just one year (the Oxford casino, approved last November, is now under construction).

The Lewiston project would hamper the prospects for financial success of the voter-approved Oxford facility less than 15 miles to its west. It also probably would hurt a Biddeford casino, less than 50 miles away as the crow flies.

A Lewiston casino is one too many. Question 3 should be defeated.

Yes on Question 4

The politically charged redistricting process, mandated to occur every 10 years to reflect new census data, may get a little easier if voters approve Question 4 on Nov. 8. The process also will be more timely, reflecting the results of the most recent census. Voters should approve this change.

Among the changes that will follow voter approval of the question are that redistricting of Maine’s two congressional districts, state legislative districts and county commissioner districts will be achieved by 2021, instead of 2023. In other words, the process would be accelerated to be completed closer to the release of the actual population data from the most recent U.S. census.

Question 4 would facilitate a better way to resolve an inherently political conundrum. A yes vote will spare us all the angst of watching the next redistricting process.

Yes on Table Games

Penobscot County voters are asked to vote to allow Hollywood Slots to expand its offerings to include so-called table games. Approving this change is low-risk, sensible and fair. A yes vote on the question that will appear on the back of the statewide ballot also will help secure long-range funding for the Maine Center, the new Bangor conference and performance facility.

A yes vote is responsible and, in the best sense, a self-interested vote for Penobscot County residents.

Table games are those gambling activities in which a patron interacts with a dealer or game operator to play blackjack or poker. Gamblers like table games because there is more luck involved and because they can employ strategies to improve their odds.

Hollywood Slots claims the new revenue will create 89 jobs drawing $4 million in salaries and benefits. The company will send an additional $1 million to state coffers and along with a $1.4 million state fee for a 20-year license for the games.

A yes vote to allow table games will help an existing, successful Bangor business continue to thrive.

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