Slots referendum signatures won't be certified until legal fight is over

March 24, 2010|By Nicole Fuller | nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The Anne Arundel County Board of Elections said Wednesday that it will delay certifying the signatures collected for a ballot referendum on slots at Arundel Mills mall until the legal battle surrounding the effort is resolved.

The election board completed counting Wednesday the 40,408 signatures submitted by the coalition group Citizens Against Slots at the Mall, verifying 22,967 of them as valid, giving the green light for a ballot referendum in November. County law requires 18,790 for a ballot referendum.

Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. plans to build a 4,750-machine slots parlor at the site of the mall and has sued the election board under its company PPE Casino Resorts Maryland LLC, claiming it failed to recognize fraud in the referendum effort. The anti-slots coalition, funded by the Maryland Jockey Club, has said it followed the law and denies any wrongdoing. The coalition has also intervened in the suit, pushing for dismissal.

According to Maryland election law, if there is a pending judicial review involving a ballot referendum, the county election board has the option of waiting to certify the signatures until two days after the legal review is completed, said James Praley, the attorney for the county election board.

Joseph Weinberg, a vice president at Cordish, called the election board's decision "prudent."

Alan M. Rifkin, an attorney for the coalition, said the election board's action "emphasizes the prematurity of the PPE lawsuit."

"We've said all along that their lawsuit is premature under the code and can only be brought 10 days after the certification, so the court needs to dismiss the lawsuit," said Rifkin. "The petitioners have submitted more than enough validated signatures to proceed to referendum. That is not in doubt."

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