It was an exhausting campaign that seemed to go on forever, but the voters have spoken (although it's not clear in some cases what they say) and it's time to look ahead.
After many years there is finally a clear decision that we will have slot machines in Maryland. The vote was not close; slots won in every jurisdiction with a 400,000 vote margin statewide. The issue now moves to implementation. The Governor is already moving to identify and appoint commission members who will oversee the bidding for the licenses. In Baltimore, the city has already moved to purchase land in South Baltimore which the city hopes will be used for a casino there.
Those opposed to slots haven't given up, of course. There are going to be zoning battles and other rear-guard actions. The fact that slots won in every jurisdiction, though, is going to give local politicians pause in how hard they can fight to delay the inevitable. In Anne Arundel County, for example, slots won overwhelmingly, as they did in Baltimore City, Allegany County and Cecil County. Here in Worcester, it was a little tighter although there was a majority in favor of slots.
The state is going to have to be very open and transparent in how they issue regulations, select operators and manage the process. Any hint of collusion or back room deals could delay things for a long time.
The constitutional amendment to allow early voting also passed by a large margin. To me it seems that the primary effect of this will be in the large jurisdictions of the Western Shore where voters frequently encounter large lines on election day. Given the busy lives that many live, the ability to choose one of several days on which to vote seems as though it will make life a bit easier and perhaps improve turnout. Since the large jurisdictions are primarily Democratic, it will likely improve Democratic margins statewide, but it's hard to tell how much. I guess we'll find out in 2010.
It's definitely a nail-biter here. As expected, Frank Kratovil did well on the Eastern Shore while Andy Harris did better on the Western Shore - particularly in Harford County. Kratovil's 900 vote margin in Tuesday's voting will have to withstand more than 28,000 absentee ballots that have been returned in the district. Registered Dems outnumber Republicans by about 300 in the number of returned ballots and the majority of the ballots are from the Eastern Shore, where Kratovil led in every county in Tuesday's voting. While counting might continue for several more days as more ballots arrive, chances are we'll know the winner tonight. I'm hoping Frank will pull it out - I think the odds are in his favor.
Barack Obama received 61.4% of the votes on Tuesday compared to 37.0% for John McCain. As expected, Obama's huge margins in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Howard County overwhelmed McCain wins in the smaller jurisdictions.
The impact of the large number of newly registered voters was felt across Maryland, though, as John McCain trailed George Bush's 2004 share of the vote in virtually every jurisdiction. The Republican Party is going to have to rethink its strategy if it is going to have any chance in 2010 to win a statewide office or elect a significant number of state legislators. It will be interesting to watch.