New polling shows that Alabamians overwhelmingly want a statewide lottery, and a significant percentage are undecided on how to vote March 3 on the constitutional amendment to reorganize the state board of education.

A total of 625 registered Alabama voters were interviewed live by telephone statewide for the Alabama Daily News, WBRC and WAFF.

Asked if they would support or oppose establishing a state lottery, 80% of those surveyed said they support it. Eleven percent were opposed and 9% were undecided.

Whether they get to vote on the required constitutional amendment to establish a lottery is now in doubt, at least for this year.

Such legislation is expected in lawmakers’ current session, but Gov. Kay Ivey seemed to slow momentum last week when she announced she would form a group to study the possible impact of a lottery and expanded casino gambling, including a possible deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to expand its operations. Information from the yet-to-be-established group isn’t likely until the end of the year.

Last year, a lottery proposal cleared the Senate but died in the House. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh last week said he thinks Ivey’s new group pushes current legislation “down the road.”

“I think the governor made it clear she wants to see some actual numbers on what the state can really expect from revenue from gaming in general,” Marsh said. “I think until that comes back, these things are on hold.”

Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, has said he still plans to file a bill to create a lottery and split the estimated $167 million per year in revenue between the state’s pre-kindergarten program and college scholarships.

A proposed constitutional amendment does not need the governor’s signature before it's placed on the ballot. Clouse has said he’d like the lottery on the November ballot because the presidential election will have a large voter turnout.


School board

In next month’s primary election, voters will decide if they want to change the structure of the state’s elected school board, allowing the governor to appoint members, with Senate confirmation, to the newly named Alabama Commission of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to the poll, 41% of voters would say no to the amendment and 38% would vote yes. That leaves 21% undecided.

The legislation allowing the amendment was backed last year by Marsh and Ivey. In recent public addresses, including last week’s State of the State speech, Ivey has been calling on Alabamians to vote “yes.” The governor, who by office is the president of the board, argues that an appointed board could do more to improve Alabama’s lagging national education rankings.

“Gov. Ivey and nearly 80% of the Legislature agreed we have become too complacent about our poor education results, and we must give our citizens the opportunity to make systemic changes,” spokeswoman Gina Maiola said. “She is urging every Alabama voter who is committed to improving our rock bottom test scores to vote yes on Amendment 1 on their March 3 ballot.”

So far, no major advertising campaign has been launched on either side of the amendment.

Current state board member Jackie Zeigler, a Republican who represents much of south Alabama, has been talking to groups and doing media interviews explaining why she thinks people should vote “no.”

“It’s trying to take away the voice of the people,” Zeigler said. “We’re brilliant when we elect our legislators, but inept when we elect our school board, I guess.”

Alabama has had an elected board of education since 1975.

The telephone poll of 625 registered Alabama voters was conduced Feb. 4-6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.
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