At no time in memory have Maryland voters decided so many momentous cultural and economic issues on a single day. But not everyone is convinced that’s a good thing.
“Any one of these would be a high-profile issue in any other year,” said Mike Morrill, a veteran Democratic strategist. “With all four on the ballot, you run the risk that people won’t take the time to learn about them. Whatever simplistic notions cut through the clutter could dominate.”
Already, some advocates for same sex-marriage and the “Dream Act” for undocumented students are concerned that a well-funded gambling campaign could make it harder for them to get their message out.
“One of the things I’m certainly worried about is the competition for attention,” said Travis Tazelaar, campaign manager for Educating Maryland Kids, a pro-Dream Act group.
Both of those defining social issues, which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is pushing, could have national implications. And the outcome of the gambling debate has far-reaching ramifications for the state and for Prince George’s County in particular.
An advertised $800 million casino that the ballot measure would allow in Prince George’s by 2016 would be the largest economic-development project in the pipeline for the county and could, quite literally, change the face of the region.
If the casino winds up at National Harbor, the most likely site, it would be among the first things motorists would see when crossing into Maryland on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Lawmakers have mixed feelings about having so much on the ballot in November — the greater say the people have, the better, some argue — but most everyone agrees on this:
For a year in which there will be few competitive races between candidates in liberal-leaning Maryland, voters can expect to see an unprecedented number of issue ads on television and may find their mailboxes overflowing.
The four major issues have taken different paths to the ballot. Lawmakers chose to put gambling before voters. The other three are recently passed laws that were petitioned there by opponents, who have used the Internet to make signature-gathering far more efficient than in the past.
Besides those issues, Maryland voters will also be presented with three statewide questions — two related to the qualifications for Orphans’ Court judges and the third affecting when elected officials convicted of crimes must leave office. The latter was inspired by Leslie Johnson’s decision to remain on the Prince George’s County Council before she was sentenced in a widespread corruption scandal.