Question J on today's ballot in Montgomery County will be approved unanimously, according to a Washington Post poll of the entire electorate.
Actually, only two individuals -- Mildred and Mar-
tin Darnall -- are eligible to vote on ballot Question J. But both said they're going to vote "yes." So there.
That way, 74-year-old Mildred and 75-year-old Martin can finally settle a Prince George's-Montgomery County boundary dispute. And with the legal cloud chased away, maybe they can sell their Hitching Post restaurant on the county line in Laurel and enjoy retirement among magnolia and holly trees on the Eastern Shore.
"Then everything will be cleared up," Mildred Darnall said.
When they go to the polling place at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on McKnew Road today, the Darnalls will make history by participating in the smallest referendum in Maryland history. They will vote on whether to cede their land from Montgomery to Prince George's.
Douglas Jernigan, administrator of the Montgomery County Board of Election Supervisors, had to oversee the printing of 1.78 million ballot cards this year. For the Darnalls, he did something special. "Since there were only two, I drafted something up and made it look official," Jernigan said. "We did it on a typewriter."
But the road to the ballot box for the Darnalls was longer even than most presidential campaigns.
The Hitching Post, their combination restaurant-bar-carryout-liquor store-home, has provided them a residence and livelihood for 41 years. Nobody, not the Darnalls or local government, took note that in 1968 part of their three acres was moved from Prince George's into Montgomery when the twisting boundary was straightened.
But when the Darnalls tried to sell out four years ago, lawyers for prospective buyers noticed. If the property were in Montgomery, which runs its own liquor stores, the Prince George's county liquor license held by the Darnalls couldn't transfer with the sale. Away went the prospective buyers.
After a flurry of ineffectual paperwork, state Del. Sheila Ellis Hixson (D-Montgomery) found a way to help the Darnalls. Early this year, the Maryland General Assembly approved legislation setting up a special vote to transfer the land back whence it came. In such votes, only owners of affected property participate. The Darnalls had to change their voting registration from Prince George's to Montgomery.
But there was yet another hitch.
The elderly Darnalls were going to cast their ballots -- absentee fashion -- at the Hitching Post and be done with it. But the Attorney General's Office advised against it. State law won't countenance voting in places that sell beer, wine or liquor.
So today the Darnalls -- what pollsters call highly likely and motivated voters -- will schlep three blocks to their polling place. Then, they think, they can sell the property, valued nearly four years ago at $1.3 million, an amount that Mildred Darnall still considers "underpriced."
Both Hixson and Jernigan say they are confident about the outcome.
"As long as they don't get into a fight, we're clean," Hixson said.
Noting the incentive, Jernigan added: "If they both vote yes, they'll be millionaires."