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Early voter turnout on games tops 11 percent

June 07, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - A little more than 11 percent of Jefferson County's 32,377 registered voters have cast early votes in the county's casino table games referendum, which will be decided in an election Saturday, county voting officials said Wednesday.

Early voting for the games started at the Jefferson County Courthouse May 18 and ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

At the close of business Wednesday, 3,631 ballots had been cast, exceeding other early vote totals in previous elections in the county, according to Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan.

Maghan said 591 early ballots were cast in the 2004 primary election, 466 early ballots were cast for a 2005 school levy election, 828 early votes were cast in the 2006 primary election and 2,404 early votes were cast in last year's general election.

On Saturday, the county's 31 precincts will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

There will be a change in the location of one precinct, Maghan said.

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Voters in precinct 23 A and B who normally vote at the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Summit Point Road will instead vote at the Country Day School along W.Va. 51 west of Charles Town, Maghan said.

The precinct location was changed because the church has a service Saturday, Maghan said.

Charles Town Races & Slots officials say they need casino table games like blackjack and roulette to stay ahead of gambling competition in other states. If voters approve the games, track officials have said they will probably start with 75 gaming tables, which would generate about 500 jobs at the track.

The Jefferson County Board of Education has supported the games because of advantages such as an estimated $1.5 million per year that will go to the school system from the games.

Opponents fear the games will increase crime and traffic congestion on the county's already crowded roads. They also say that gambling sucks revenue from other businesses.

At least four public forums on the games have been held, including one Wednesday night at the Charles Town Library sponsored by the Jefferson County chapter of the NAACP.

Ranson Police Chief William Roper, a panelist speaking in favor of the games, said his department has not had to increase its number of officers since Charles Town Races & Slots began offering slot machines. There has been a slight increase in crime in neighboring Ranson over the last two years, but that is attributable to the thousands of acres that have been annexed into the city, Roper said.

"Our way of life hasn't changed," Roper said.

John Maxey, a panelist speaking against the games, said the issue of casino table games has been proposed to county residents in "record speed." Maxey said there has not been enough time to sort out all of the details involved in table games and he urged county residents to vote no.

Although the $1.5 million that would go to schools has been touted as a way to build needed facilities, Maxey said the big need facing the school system is better pay for teachers.

New schools won't do any good if they are filled with "unsupervised, untaught" children, Maxey said.

At least 85 people attended the forum.




Table games vote



What: Referendum on whether to allow casino table games at Charles Town Races & Slots.

When: Saturday. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Voting will be conducted at 31 precincts in the county. Voters at precinct 23 A and B will vote at the Country Day School on W.Va. 51 instead of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Summit Point Road.

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