November 4, 2012

IN ADDITION to voting for president, a senator, members of Congress and other elected officials, Maryland voters will face an unusual number of important questions on their statewide ballot. The following is a summary of The Post’s stances on these questions, most of which have been the subject of previous editorials.

Question 1 and 2: Orphans’ Court

The Orphans’ Court, a misnomer, is a three-judge panel in each of the state’s localities that adjudicates wills and estates. The courts’ judges (except in Baltimore City) are not required to be lawyers. That is no longer wise in large jurisdictions, where complex disputes over large estates can divide families and involve large sums. We recommend a vote for the constitutional amendment, which would require the courts’ judges in Prince George’s (Question 1) and Baltimore (Question 2) counties to be members of the Maryland bar.

Question 3: Removing elected officials

This constitutional amendment would ensure that crooked elected officials would be suspended from office when found guilty of a crime and immediately removed if they plead guilty or no contest. That would be an improvement on the status quo, which has allowed some officials, including former Prince George’s County Council member Leslie Johnson, to continue exercising power even after admitting guilt. We recommend a vote for the constitutional amendment.

Question 4: Maryland Dream Act

The question here is whether to ratify a state law that would enable some undocumented students — brought into this country as young children and educated at Maryland high schools — to continue their education by making them eligible for in-state tuition rates at state universities. The law makes abundant sense: Why deny opportunities to ambitious and talented students who have grown up in Maryland?

As drafted, it would apply only to youngsters whose families have paid state income tax; who have applied for green cards to remain in the country legally; who have no criminal records; and who first graduate from a Maryland community college. For the purpose of admission to state universities, they would compete with out-of-state students, so as not to displace any native-born Marylanders. We recommend a vote for the law.

Question 5: Congressional redistricting

Thanks to Gov. Martin O’Malley and his fellow Democrats in Annapolis, Maryland’s eight congressional districts now qualify as the most outrageously gerrymandered among the 50 states, as analyzed by a nonpartisan geospatial firm. Several districts, including the 3rd and the 6th, dice and splice counties, communities and neighborhoods, all in service to the Democrats’ goal of adding a seventh seat to the six they already control.

The map as currently configured allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than the other way around; it is anti-democratic in the extreme. We recommend a vote against the law; that would force Mr. O’Malley and lawmakers back to the drawing board.

Question 6: Same-sex marriage

When Mr. O’Malley signed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act in March, the law’s effective date was pushed to January, giving opponents time to petition the question onto the November ballot. A vote for the landmark law would allow it to go into effect and permit committed same-sex couples to wed. It would also make Maryland the seventh state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to approve marriage equality.

Here’s what the law would not do: It would not force clergy to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their religious beliefs. Nor would religious organizations be required to participate in such ceremonies if they objected. The law strikes the right balance by protecting religious freedom while granting the freedom to marry. We urge Marylanders to vote for the law.

Question 7: Gambling expansion

On top of the five slot-machine casinos authorized at referendum in 2008, this question asks Maryland voters to add a sixth casino, in Prince George’s County, and to allow table games such as roulette and blackjack at all of them. Given that table games are already in operation at major casinos in three of the four neighboring states — and that many of their patrons come from Maryland — it is foolish not to compete.

The state and Prince George’s both need the tax revenue, and the proposed new casino, which would probably be part of a larger development operated by MGM Resorts, would attract high-rollers who can afford to part with their cash. We recommend a vote for the expansion.

In Montgomery County, two additional ballot questions merit attention.

Question A would amend the county charter so that local government officials could more easily recruit and hire qualified employees with severe disabilities, including veterans injured in combat. That would be in line with current practice in the federal government. County residents should vote for the charter amendment, which was unanimously backed by the County Council.

Question B would ratify a law, adopted unanimously by the council, that would scrap a wildly inefficient system used by police union officials to block common-sense management moves, such as requiring officers to read their e-mail. Under the proposed law, Montgomery police would retain the same collective-bargaining rights accorded firefighters and other categories of local government workers. Voters should mark their ballots for the proposed law.