Sometimes ballot question wording can be tricky. The rule of thumb is that a ‘yes’ vote changes something, and a ‘no’ vote keeps the status quo intact. If you keep that principle in mind you’ll generally be in pretty good shape.
One question this year has been particularly confusing for some voters: Question 3—the casino question.
Question 3 is broadly seen as a vote on whether to allow casinos in Massachusetts. And effectively speaking, it is. But the question is actually whether or not to get rid of the 2011 law allowing for casinos to be built.
That means that a ‘yes’ vote is one for getting rid of the law. Voting yes means you don’t want casinos. Voting no means you want the law to stay in place, and therefore, that you want (or are at least okay with) casinos.
You can see that the rule of thumb—’yes’ brings a change—is still in play: if you lean that way, you’re in favor of getting rid of a law. But the distinction might be lost on some voters because Massachusetts casinos still exist in the abstract. The planned casinos in Everett and Springfield have not yet gotten underway, and won’t unless the vote passes in their favor. Construction on the planned slots parlor in Plainville is well underway, but nobody’s gambled there yet. To voters, it might seem like going forward with casinos (which is a ‘no’ vote) would bring the big change, while shutting them down (a ‘yes’) would maintain the casino-free Massachusetts we’ve long known.
What’s more, in many of the towns and cities that have debated whether or not to play host to a casino, Question 3 will represent the second time voters have gone to the booth. The casino law required that no community could play host to a casino without its residents approving a casino in a vote.
In those votes, a ‘yes’ meant residents wanted to host a casino while a ‘no’ meant they rejected that plan. In other words, the options were the exact opposite of this year’s statewide query. The Springfield Republican reported last month on the confusion facing voters in that city, because some yard signs from last year’s referendum were still out. Between last year’s signs and this year’s, the unwitting voter was being urged to vote ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for what appeared to be the same outcome. You can understand the confusion.
Because it’s the day before the election, let’s simplify this once and for all. On Tuesday, keep in mind that Question 3 isn’t about whether Massachusetts should open casinos, it’s about whether to ban them. Think about it that way, and yes becomes yes, no becomes no, and everything makes sense again.