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Maryland Politics
Posted at 05:35 PM ET, 08/20/2012

For Md. voters, Nov. ballot requires homework

Maryland released the text of its November ballot Monday, and from the governor on down, officials offered one warning: Homework required.

Seven ballot questions — including referenda on whether Maryland should legalize gay marriage and give college tuition aid to illegal immigrants – measure nearly 700 words.

But fully understanding the issues may require much more reading.

A question about approving a massive casino, for example – one likely to be built by MGM at National Harbor — doesn’t include the words “casino,” “MGM” or “National Harbor.”
A woman votes in Waldorf, Md., in 2010. (James A. Parcell - Freelance)

And critics contend that the referendum on the state’s Dream Act wrongly suggests that it was intended to help many residents other than undocumented immigrants.

Yet another question, about the state’s redrawn congressional map, doesn’t begin to mention the racial and political tensions that fueled the signature-gathering effort to upend it.

“There’s not a lot of time between now and November, and certainly educating, letting people know, is going to take a lot of our effort,” said Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington).

Parrott’s MDPetitions.com is partly responsible for the record-breaking length of Maryland’s Nov. 6 ballot.

His group used the Web site to gather signatures of residents opposed to moves by the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to approve gay marriage and the Dream Act, and to redraw the state’s congressional map to potentially help Democrats win seven of the state’s eight seats in the House of Representatives.

Parrott said that, luckily for him, he can spend the next 80 days before the election pushing a simple motto: “Just say ‘no’ — vote no on all four,” lumping in the state’s expansion of casino gambling to the three he helped petition to referendum.

O’Malley released a statement Monday encouraging residents to “closely examine” the state’s seven ballot initiatives and “share them with family and friends.”

“This year, we have a unique opportunity to move our state forward toward a more just and equal society, while defending dignity, protecting religious freedom, and investing in our greatest assets: the talents, skills, ingenuity and creativity of our people,” O’Malley said.

The gay marriage question is titled the same as the bill the legislature passed this year: “Referendum Petition — Civil Marriage Protection Act.”

It asks residents to vote for or against, saying the law:

“Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”

Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, called the text accurate and straightforward.

“This referendum is about equality under the law and protecting religious freedom, and we know the more people know about this issue the more they support it,” he said in a statement.

Derek McCoy, chairman of the Maryland Marriage Alliance , called it a ploy to help the measure pass.

“The referendum poses the question as if it’s a new marriage concept; it isn’t. We’re talking about redefining the current definition of marriage,” McCoy said.

“A lot of our folks have been looking at this and asking how it can be deemed a fair description? … this is very clearly a ploy to help put together a measure that tries to help the measure pass. It’s not being quite honest.”

Here’s the full text of the statewide questions on the Nov. ballot:

Question 1 - Constitutional Amendment

Qualifications for Prince George’s County Orphans’ Court Judges

Requires judges of the Orphans’ Court for Prince George’s County to be admitted to practice law in this State and to be a member in good standing of the Maryland Bar.

For the Constitutional Amendment

Against the Constitutional Amendment

Question 2 - Constitutional Amendment

Qualifications for Baltimore County Orphans’ Court Judges

Requires judges of the Orphans’ Court for Baltimore County to be admitted to practice law in this State and to be a member in good standing of the Maryland Bar.

For the Constitutional Amendment

Against the Constitutional Amendment

Question 3 - Constitutional Amendment

Suspension and Removal of Elected Officials

Changes the point at which an elected official charged with certain crimes is automatically suspended or removed from office. Under existing law, an elected official who is convicted or pleads no contest is suspended and is removed only when the conviction becomes final. Under the amended law, an elected official is suspended when found guilty and is removed when the conviction becomes final or when the elected official pleads guilty or no contest.

For the Constitutional Amendment

Against the Constitutional Amendment

Question 4 - Referendum Petition

Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates

Establishes that individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges in Maryland, provided the student meets certain conditions relating to attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school, filing of income taxes, intent to apply for permanent residency, and registration with the selective service system (if required); makes such students eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year public college or university if the student has first completed 60 credit hours or graduated from a community college in Maryland; provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment; and extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates.

For the Referred Law

Against the Referred Law

Question 5 - Referendum Petition

Congressional Districting Plan

Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.

For the Referred Law

Against the Referred Law

Question 6 - Referendum Petition

Civil Marriage Protection Act

Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

For the Referred Law

Against the Referred Law

Question 7

Gaming Expansion Referendum

Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate “table games” as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?

For the Additional Forms and Expansion of Commercial Gaming

Against the Additional Forms and Expansion of Commercial Gaming

By  |  05:35 PM ET, 08/20/2012

 
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