Election 2009: Voters Tackle Casinos, Gay Marriage
Voters in six states will decide Tuesday on a range of hot-button issues, from same-sex marriage and medical marijuana laws to borrowing funds for open space.
In Maine and Washington state, voters will decide whether to extend marriage rights to gay men and lesbians.
A ballot measure in Maine would repeal a gay-marriage law passed last spring by the state Legislature. If it fails, it will be the first time a state referendum supported gay marriage, says Frank Schubert, a strategist working to pass the measure, known as Question 1.
"Gay marriage has never been approved in a ballot anywhere in the country," Schubert says.
Mark Sullivan, spokesman for NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality, said Question 1 goes against "the right of same-sex couples to get married."
"It's a matter of fairness and equality under the law," he says.
In Washington, Referendum 71, would give same-sex partners and unmarried seniors who live together the same rights as married couples with the caveat "that a domestic partnership is not a marriage."
Elsewhere, ballot measures cover medical marijuana, gambling and new borrowing. Tuesday's list of 26 ballot measures in Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington is the second-shortest in a decade, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2003, 22 measures were fielded on statewide ballots.
Ohioans will vote a fifth time since 1990 on whether to allow casinos to operate in the state. All previous measures had failed. Tuesday's ballot measure would allow one casino in each corner of the state and require casinos to pay 33 percent tax on receipts.
Voters in Maine, New Jersey and Ohio will vote on $671 million in new bonds, according to the legislatures conference.
The largest bond measure is in New Jersey, where voters are being asked to support a $400 million bond to preserve open space, farmland, historic and natural resources.
Maine voters will decide whether to include more medical conditions that would qualify patients to buy marijuana. The law would also allow nonprofit marijuana dispensaries to distribute pot to qualified patients.
The Maine Chiefs of Police Association recently voted 32-0 to oppose it, Executive Director Robert Schwartz told the Associated Press. Law officers worried that the referendum would not set strict limits on who could dispense marijuana and where, Schwartz said.
Maine's medical marijuana law was passed by referendum in 1999 but failed to set up a system for qualified patients to obtain the drug, said Jonathan Leavitt, coordinator for Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights.