2016 ballot questions: What you need to know

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By Andrew Tyrrell, Managing Editor

The 2016 election is, mercifully, fast approaching.

Not only will we all be voting to elect the next President of the United States, who will either be the most or least qualified politician in history, but we will also be deciding which representatives to the State House and Congress we will be keeping. Equally important, however, are the ballot questions.

“Wait a minute,” you may say. “There are ballot questions?”

Aye, chief, there are. In fact, on the Massachusetts ballot, there are four questions. I will do my utmost to explain what each one does, present both sides of the argument (fair warning: two of the ballot questions will have much more depth to their arguments), what a yes or no vote would do, and how I plan to vote.

The questions will be listed in order of what I believe is their importance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, starting with least to greatest.

The first question that will appear on the ballot is, along with question 3, among what I believe are the least important of the four measures voters will be faced with. I also believe they are the most straightforward in that you’re either going to fall on one side of the argument or you’re not.

Question 1 deals with the issue of gambling, but in an extremely narrow way. Currently there has been a monopoly granted to the Plainridge Park Casino in Plaineville.

This is the only casino in the state that is permitted to have electronic gaming or a slots parlor. If you need an example of what that is, think of Twin Rivers Casino in Rhode Island.

The first ballot question will decide whether or not the state will issue a second permit, specifically to Eugene McCain.

Incidentally, it was Mr. McCain who pushed the idea enough to get the requisite signatures and get it onto the ballot this November.

Again, this proposal is very narrowly and specifically written. If the measure were to passed, a slots casino would be given a permit to be built on a four-acre parcel of land, within 1500 feet of a horse racing track.

It just so happens that McCain has purchased that exact piece of land on Route 1A, near Suffolk Downs in Revere.

Here are the two very straightforward arguments: the argument for a new slots casino being built is that it can bring Revere and ultimately the Commonwealth revenue by ways of people gambling at the new casino, as well as people coming from out of state, but the argument against revolves around the amorality that is sometimes associated with gambling, as well as a potential increase in crime.

Personally, I see no point in voting for a new slots casino. The state has already approved the building of full sized casinos; a smaller slots-only casino doesn’t do enough for state revenue and tourism to justify being built.

Adding on to that, the people of Revere have come out pretty firmly against the proposal, and that seems like a pretty clear “no” vote to me.

However, a “yes” on question 1 will allow the granting of a new permit for the state’s second slots casino. A “no” vote would prevent such a permit from being issued.

As for question 3, we won’t spend a lot of time on this one. It’s even more straightforward than a casino being built, but it deals with living conditions and the rights of those who do not have their own voice, and for me that’s more important than people being able to piss away their money on a slot machine.

Question 3 deals with animal cruelty, but first, a little background: it took a challenge in the Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in the state, to help get this question on the ballot.

In order for a measure to make it onto the ballot, it (usually) cannot deal with more than one area. Question 3, if passed, would ban the confinement of animals on farms in Massachusetts, as well as ban the sale of meat or eggs that were produced by animals held in confinement.

The question also specifies three different types of animal: egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal, and breeding pigs.

Ultimately the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that all areas of the ballot question were related to each other, and it could go forward.

The decision for you, as a voter, is based on your views of animal rights. Is it okay to keep farm animals penned up? What about the ones who are just being raised for slaughter?

I’m still on the fence (there might some sort of pun there) with this one. While I respect the Court’s decision, I disagree with it. Though there may be links between all parties involved on the question, they are still different parts that make up a whole.

A “yes” vote would ban animal confinement on farms and prevent eggs or meat produced by animals kept in confinement from being sold in stores. A “no” vote would allow farmers to continue to confine their animals, and stores could continue selling whatever they want from whichever farmer they want.

The election is November 8, 2016. The last day to register to vote is October 19. You can register or check your registration online.

If you want to read about the ballot questions in full, you can read the petitions here.

Rhode Island residents can find information on their ballot questions, voter registration, polling locations, and more here.

Photo Courtesy: PBS.org


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