Ohioans challenging Gov. Strickland’s Slot Machine Gambling to Ohio Supreme Court

On Friday July 23, LetOhioVote.Org filed a Writ of Mandamus with the Ohio Supreme Court directly challenging Governor Ted Strickland’s plan to place up to 17,500 video slot machines at Ohio horse race tracks without a vote of the people.

In the writ, LetOhioVote.Org committee members Tom Brinkman, Gene Pierce and David Hansen asked the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold the right of referendum on this issue. Further, the committee seeks the Court’s affirmation of the peoples’ constitutional right to vote on the video slot machine scheme. If the committee’s effort succeeds, the issue will be placed before voters in November 2010, and the slot machine rollout will be halted pending that vote.

“In 2006, nearly 57 percent of Ohioans opposed placing video slot machines at horse race tracks,” Pierce said. “If Governor Strickland and legislative leaders believe their plan is better than the one the voters already rejected, they ought to make their case directly to the people. Simply ignoring a public vote should not be an option.”

“The governor and legislative leaders should have the courage to place this issue before the voters,” former state representative Brinkman said. “They didn’t have the nerve to cut government, but they freely violate the expressed will of the people? Well, we say ‘not so fast.'” Brinkman is the co-founder of COAST, a Cincinnati-based taxpayer advocacy group.

“Placing video slot machines at struggling race tracks is nothing more than giving wealthy track owners a huge government bailout,” Hansen added. “It’s the same old story; they can’t make their business profitable so they turn to government. Any way you look at it, it’s bad economics and bad government.”

In 2007, Governor Strickland said, “The people of Ohio have spoken with a clear voice on this issue time and time again. They do not want an expansion of gambling in their state.” “The people deserve another opportunity to speak with a clear voice on this issue,” Pierce concluded.

Joining the fight against Strickland’s violation of Ohioans constitutional rights was Buckeye Institute’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. The 1851 Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of Ohio Citizen Action, Citizens in Charge and the Ohio Freedom Alliance. The brief urges the court to find language in the state budget excluding the authorization of video slot machines from referendum unconstitutional.

“The referendum process outlined in the Ohio Constitution is sacrosanct and must be tread upon lightly,” said Maurice Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “Ironically, in seeking to arbitrarily and unconstitutionally deprive the people of Ohio of their right to Referendum, the General Assembly accentuates the very reason why Initiative and Referendum are so vital to Ohio’s governance.”

The brief points out that the right to referendum was added by amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1912 to “serve as a check on the General Assembly by permitting laws, or parts of laws passed is that body to be submitted to voters for their approval or rejection.” In addition the brief cites that the Ohio Supreme Court has, on multiple occasions, upheld the right to a referendum as a staple of democracy in Ohio and should do so again on this issue.

Commentary: In 2006, slot machines gambling (Keno) was voted down by Ohio voters. It was called the Learn and Earn Initiative (Issue 3). Ohioans did learn how much rich track and bar owners would gain and how little school children would gain if passed. Moreover, Ohioans learned that shyster politicians, race track and bars owners were attempting make profits their Constitutionally guaranteed right. Those were reasons Ohio voters said NO to the Keno gambling initiative, a second step to justifying casino gambling. (The first step was allowing the lottery.)

The real issue then is not whether voters have a right of referendum, but a right to have their vote actually count. Ohio citizens made a valid constitutional decision about slot machine gambling at race tracks and other establishments. The decision was NO. No contingency exists–like the State budget deficit–that can negate the common consent of Ohio voters.

The issue created by Gov. Strickland and his legislative supporters amounts to the worse kind of political misbehavior. For they blatantly violate the rights Ohio citizens, oppose their Constitutional powers, and thumb their noses at the will of Ohioans. I do not see any other way to stop politicians of their ilk other than a swift and permanent removal from public office.

In the private sector, it is called being fired.

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