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Slot machine opponents sue to get recount

The No Casinos and animal rights groups are fighting the recently passed amendment.

Published November 16, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Casino opponents have gone to court to force a recount in Broward County, where absentee ballots helped pass a measure allowing slot machines in South Florida.

Calling the situation "bizarre," state Rep. Randy Johnson, chairman of No Casinos, said absentee ballots were dramatically different from those cast on Election Day.

The measure amended the state Constitution to allow voters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to decide whether to allow slot machines at horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons in the two counties.

When the ballots were discovered, the amendment was losing by about 1,000 votes. Of the 78,000 absentee ballots, 94 percent favored the amendment, compared with 64 percent cast on Election Day.

Johnson, R-Celebration, said attorneys for No Casinos urged the Broward County Canvassing Board to recount the absentee ballots Nov. 4, but the board refused.

"We want to get a clear answer about the absentees; there appears to be a statistical anomaly," Johnson said Monday.

Heather Veleanu, head of the Animal Rights Foundation in Broward County, joined in the lawsuit against the Broward Canvassing Board and Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes. The lawsuit was filed in Leon Circuit Court.

Earl Bender, manager of Yes for Local Control, which supported the amendment, called the lawsuit a desperate move by people who are "trying to thwart the will of the people."

The lawsuit is the second filed over the casino amendment. Last month the U.S. Humane Society asked the court to declare the amendment invalid because signatures of dead voters were used on some of the petitions that helped supporters get it on the ballot.

Circuit Judge Nikki Clark has scheduled a hearing in January to determine whether fraud allegations should invalidate the amendment.

Johnson also suggested that legislators might tinker with the definition of "slot machine" in bills to implement the amendment. He said he hopes to sit down with Gov. Jeb Bush, House Speaker Allan Bense and Senate President Tom Lee to discuss the amendment.

Should legislators try to block the success of an amendment approved by voters?

"The amendment doesn't say the Legislature shall maximize the income they get," Johnson replied. "And we're going to have to define what a slot machine is. This could be a matter of some debate. They say we already have slots at Indian gaming places, so I guess they are talking about video lottery terminals."

[Last modified November 16, 2004, 00:39:15]

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