Secretary of State: Today is deadline for lottery on November ballot

Published: Aug. 24, 2016 at 6:16 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2016 at 1:02 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - One lawmaker said the deadline for getting a lottery amendment on the Nov. 8 general election ballot is Thursday. Another proclaimed it's actually Friday. And yet others said it just depends on whether legislation can be passed before the ballots are printed.

Confusion reigned Wednesday at the Alabama Statehouse, but Secretary of State John Merrill threw cold water on speculation, explaining that the deadline is Wednesday.

Merrill, who oversees the state's elections, said it won't go before the people when they head to the polls in November if something isn't finalized by the end of the day, or unless a waiver is approved. He spoke with Gov. Robert Bentley's office about the possibility of a waiver to get a lottery proposal on the November ballot and has asked for an emergency opinion from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's office regarding the deadline.

Merrill added that the legislature could also change the law to allow a lottery on the ballot, but that would require a new law.

By the end of the day Tuesday, it appeared all but certain there would be no lottery amendment on the general election ballot to change the state constitution. That's because lawmakers in Alabama's House of Representatives failed to get legislation finalized before the ballot deadline.

Then, a glimmer of hope as some legislators in the Alabama Senate proclaimed it could still make it onto the ballot if it passes before the general election ballots are printed. Sen. Cam Ward said the deadline is Thursday. Senator Jim McClendon said the deadline is Friday.

Regardless of the measure making it to the general election ballot, lottery legislation is not dead in the special session. It could still be put before the voters on a different date, but doing so would cost the taxpayers approximately $3 million.

If it doesn't make it onto the ballots for this November's election, any future lottery bills would need to either wait two years for the 2018 election or a special election would have to be held, costing the state somewhere between $3-8 million.

That extra cost could scare off some lawmakers and weaken support for the bill. However, Gov. Bentley called the debate over a date a "smokescreen" distracting from the real issue of getting a vote, and finding funding for the general fund.

Lawmakers in the House will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. On the agenda will likely be a lottery bill.

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