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Ballot Questions Could Reshape Maryland's Social Landscape

Same-sex marriage, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, expanded gambling and congressional redistricting all come down to state voters this November.

With voters deciding four of Maryland’s most divisive issues, pundits and pols are bracing for an Election Day outcome the likes of which the state has never seen.

The Nov. 6 ballot will feature seven statewide referenda in all—the most ever, reported The Washington Post. Those ballot questions were certified last week, to include: one question each for Prince George’s County and Baltimore County to require that orphan’s court judges pass the Maryland Bar, and a change in state law to accelerate the removal or suspension of elected officials convicted of crimes while in office.

The other four ballot questions are expected to spur unprecedented electioneering by advocates on all sides:

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

If gay couples come out of Nov. 6 with the right to wed, it would be the first time voters anywhere in the United States will have approved same-sex marriage, reported The Washington Times

MARYLAND'S "DREAM ACT"

The 2011 law—quickly stymied by the referendum—would allow college-bound illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they have graduated from a Maryland high school and their families pay state taxes, among other requirements.

GAMBLING GROWTH

Question 7 asks whether voters will allow "table games" with human dealers, add 1,000 video lottery table terminals and allow a mega-casino in Prince George’s County.

REDISTRICTING REDUX

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s congressional redistricting plan drew fire from Republicans and minority groups even before being enacted in October. It is the first time in half a century that Census-driven congressional redistricting has gone to referendum, reported the Washington Times.

Individual counties also have other issues being voted on specific to their jurisdictions.

“At no time in memory have Maryland voters decided so many momentous cultural and economic issues on a single day,” wrote The Washington Post.

The epochal tenor of this election cycle is set at the top of the ballot with a presidential race of unusual magnitude, said John N. Bambacus, professor emeritus at Frostburg State University’s Department of Political Science.

“This one is so hotly contested, and for many people, regardless of party, poses fundamental differences in terms of what role we want government to play in our lives,” said Bambacus, a former state senator.

Expect the rancor to reach a fever pitch, Bacumbus said, as advocates clamor for voters' attention in such a crowded field. To that end, supporters of the Dream Act and same-sex marriage are joining ranks. Casa de Maryland and Equality Maryland are fronting the coalition, which will rally in Langley Park on Tuesday.

“We have a unique opportunity to show that Marylanders believe in fairness and that Marylanders believe in family,” Gustavo Torres, Casa’s executive director, said in a statement. “We will show that we are building economies aimed at the future and communities where everyone is embraced; that we are a state that understands that we are all in this together.” 

But that partnership could backfire by stoking conservative voters, said Brad Botwin, director of the anti-illegal immigrant group Help Save Maryland. An outspoken opponent of the Dream Act, Botwin himself had been on the fence regarding gay marriage—until he heard Casa and Equality Maryland were joining forces.

“It’s like, ‘Thanks for pushing me off the fence,’” he said.

The push to educate voters on all four issues is expected to entail an unprecedented price. The gambling question is sure to rack up a massive tally, reported the Post, while the campaign on same-sex marriage will cost millions, reported the Washington Times.

And with the ballot questions involving so many adversarial groups, the partisan spending should ramp up to record highs, Bacumbus said.

“There’s probably going to be more money spent on these four questions than we’ve seen in our lifetime,” he said.

But for all the advocates’ efforts in the next two months to win over the electorate, Bacumbus expects presidential politics to overshadow the referenda throughout the run-up to Election Day—and even at the voting booth.

“Most people are not even going to be paying attention [to the ballot questions] until the week before the election,” Bacumbus said. “Let’s face it, most folks are going to focus on the presidential race, then, oh by the way, they get to the end of the ballot and they see these questions that they may or may not know much about.”

Mercy Fork August 27, 2012 at 06:32 PM
I'll vote in favor of marriage equality and the DREAM act. I wonder if anyone is really undecided on those issues. Bruce Botwin's comment about being pushed off the fence doesn't make any logical sense, so I doubt he was truly "on the fence" about gay marriage in the first place. I think the casino issue is the most confusing. On one hand, I think if everyone else gets to build a casino, Prince George's county should be able to build one too. On the other hand, I was not in favor of casinos in the first place and I don't think it's a smart thing for Maryland to spend money on.
Sandra James August 27, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I have no interest in paying for illegals education when I cant even afford my own. School has been on the back burner for me for a few years now due to the high cost of education. I scrimped and saved to educate my daughters. I am currently putting money aside for my grandchildren's education. The illegals need to get a job, take out a school loan and pay it back over time (isnt that the American way)? Oh and by the way, I've not had a pay raise for 3 years, my budget cant allow for any new expenses. As for equality marriages, I've several friends who are gay. My real concern is their divorce rate. Gambling is out. And the redistricting of the counties is a no go. Their aim is to rid of Bartlett (last seated conservative). We deserve representation, too.
Piotr Gajewski August 27, 2012 at 10:25 PM
"My real concern is their divorce rate." "Their divorce rate" in Maryland is presently zero. Is the "concern" that it is too low? Should we do away with the current marriage law (between men and women) because of rising divorce rates? Geesh!
Chas140 August 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM
The gay marriage question is very simple. Who someone chooses to marry is no-one's business (except the prosective spouse). Everyone else needs to just butt out an mind their own buisness. The idea that is somehow affects heterosexual marriage is absurd on its face.
J. Medina August 28, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Sandra- the bill state that the undocumented resident would pay for their own in-state tuition. Not you or any anybody else. So why the negativity towards the immigrat community. And as for your lack of increase in pay; the more you continue to support these conservatives you will continue to receive less and less. So open your eyes an smell the coffee.
J. Medina August 28, 2012 at 01:58 PM
By the way it sounds like you need a better job.
Zinzindor August 28, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I'm with you: live and let live.
Zinzindor August 28, 2012 at 05:46 PM
J., you are misunderstanding the concept. People who pay "in-state" tuition are paying a reduced cost. The taxpayers are paying the remainder of the cost of tuition. This means that some people (like Sandra) can't afford to improve their education, but are being forced to pay for other people's education. I don't care whether the recipients are immigrants or native-born, they don't have a right to compel others to subsidize their education.
NavVette August 28, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Not only should they not be paying in-state tuition rates, they should be paying foreigner rates. Gambling is a touchy issue... I've done volunteer work at bingo halls, which are heavily frequented by individuals on fixed incomes. A couple of women have pulled me off to the side and begged me not to sell them any more cards even if they asked because they were already spending the money meant to feed their kids. But on the flip side, it can bring money to the county and provide relief to the taxpayers (like that's going to happen in Maryland) and these people wasting their food money (albeit taxpayer-funded) are adults.
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 28, 2012 at 07:26 PM
"I don't care whether the recipients are immigrants or native-born, they don't have a right to compel others to subsidize their education." Couldn't that argument be then taken to say no one has a right to compel you to subsidize Sandra's education?
Zinzindor August 28, 2012 at 08:01 PM
CDM -- it sure could. And that's exactly what I meant. (Financial Aid is more tolerable. At least it's targeted towards those who don't have the resources. Straight tuition subsidies for residents, on the other hand, subsidize the wealthy as well as the poor. )
YvetteM August 28, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I think it's interesting that the gay marriage and DREAM act folks are banding together because the issues are different. I'm a liberal, but I have a real problem with people breaking the law to come here illegally and then getting the same benefit as legal citizens and immigrants, so I'll vote no. On gay marriage, a lot of these couples love each other and want to start families or adopt children. They would be contributing to their communities and we don't have to pay for it. Gambling is complex because as someone else said it'll bring revenue that we HOPE to see. On the other hand it'll bring misery to all those gambling addicts who won't have to travel as far to gamble their food money away. Not sure how I feel about redistricting...
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 29, 2012 at 01:03 AM
"I'm a liberal, but I have a real problem with people breaking the law to come here illegally and then getting the same benefit as legal citizens and immigrants, so I'll vote no." Yvette, I'd ask you to reconsider your position. The majority of the individuals eligible for this are youth who came to this country, some not aware that they were brought here without proper documentation and trying to contribute positively to society by obtaining an education. Additionally: The students and the parents have to prove they've been paying state taxes, so they've been contributing to their own rates. They have to attend community college for at least two years, so they'd probably only receive two or three years of schooling additionally at in state rates. Feel free to read the entire bill that was passed here: http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/billfile/SB0167.htm
J. Medina August 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM
ZZ- I hear your point and its well taken. But when people say things like ' I dont want my tax dollars paying for these illegals.' i find it to be not a true statement. Why ! just like the bill say its for students that have been in the country since a young age, must have evidence that they or their family are paying taxes. What about the Billions of dollars that have been contributed by all of those workers' to the IRS every year and that money just sits there because they cannot claim it at the end of the year. But no one talks about that; and that's money that's being genarated thru tax deducton by employer from " illegals workers."
J. Medina August 29, 2012 at 12:44 PM
"NASHVILLE — The tax system collects its due, even from a class of workers with little likelihood of claiming a refund and no hope of drawing a Social Security check. Illegal immigrants are paying taxes to Uncle Sam, experts agree. Just how much they pay is hard to determine because the federal government doesn't fully tally it. But the latest figures available indicate it will amount to billions of dollars in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes this year. One rough estimate puts the amount of Social Security taxes alone at around $9 billion per year. Paycheck withholding collects much of the federal tax from illegal workers, just as it does for legal workers." from the USATODAY 2008.
J. Medina August 29, 2012 at 12:53 PM
http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2008-04-10-immigrantstaxes_N.htm Check this article out, it provides evidence that immigrants do pay taxes..
Zinzindor August 29, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Hey, you didn't hear *me* saying that. I just said nobody should have their money taken to pay for other people's schooling. It bothers me that suburban kids from wealthy families get college degrees (and the higher incomes that come with that) by taking money from the likes of Sandra.
Zinzindor August 29, 2012 at 04:49 PM
No doubt that, as a group, immigrants of every kind pay taxes. Studies from the National Academies of Sciences and the National Research Council estimate that the average immigrant pays more in taxes than he receives in services. For illegal immigrants, that is even more true -- since they pay into Social Security (with false numbers), yet do not receive anything back. The easiest solution is to make legal immigration easier and stop forcing people into the shadows. This would help our economy as a whole.
Daniel Grossberg August 30, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Can someone explain to me - this is an honest question - the difference between a civil union and a marriage?
jose lopez August 30, 2012 at 07:37 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/pastor-who-helped-lesbian-turned-evangelical-christian-kidnap-her-daughter-flee-the-u-s-may-be-headed-to-jail/ Chas140 and Zinzindor look at the link above..hopefully when your gay fling comes back and want visitation or custody of your kids you'll be willing to go to jail for it.
TaterSalad August 30, 2012 at 10:16 PM
MSNBC's Chris Mathews........the absolute and ultimate lying hypocrite and here is why: http://weaselzippers.us/2012/08/30/tingles-im-qualified-to-play-race-card-because-i-live-in-black-majority-dc-reality-lives-in-lily-white-affluent-maryland-suburb/
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 31, 2012 at 02:34 AM
http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/wedding/a/unionvmarriage.htm
Deborah Ingram September 03, 2012 at 01:38 PM
To Sandra James-your confused about "the illegals". Illegal immigrants will still have to take out school loans and will still have to pay them back. They will just do so at the in-state rate. Their families have paid maryland tax and deserve the simple right to be counted as a Maryland resident and pay in state tuition rates. Oh-and by the way. I haven't had a raise in 3 years(state employee)but that doesn't change my opinion that my "illegal" neighbors shouldn't be able to have the same opportunity as me.
Bill Hussein O'Stalin September 12, 2012 at 12:47 PM
I could care less if gay people get married and I'm not even sure why that is a matter of public concern. If they are law biding citizens then what is the problem? I'm very conservative and I'm not sure how this got labelled as a conservative versus liberal issue. If you were really conservative you would stay out of it. As far as the illegal aliens they are here illegally and the costs are skyrocketing. That should have been a part of the question because it's all too clear that property taxes around the state will go up to support this farce.
Lady September 19, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I could care less about same-sex marriage. Everyone should be granted equal rights and everyone deserves a chance at happiness, regardless of their preferences. I will vote for same-sex marriages. As far as illegal immigrants being granted in-state tuition, most of the immigrants that would take advantage of this opportunity was probably brought over as infants/small children and did not have much choice in their position. However, I am still on the fence on this question. Casino – trying to find out more information. I look at jobs being created. One commercial says jobs will not be created, but that’s a no brainer, someone has to work at the casino. As far as it being detrimental to the county, the same people that are now going to DE, PA, WVA, and Annapolis are they same people that will be at this casino. If you can’t handle your business you deserve what you get. My pastor is totally against it, not for the moral issue, but he says Montgomery county and Fairfax county would not allow a casino so why Prince George’s county. That is true, but I believe it will bring jobs and money to the schools and to the county. Trying to find out more information before I make a decision.

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