Same-sex marriage, gambling, Dream Act on the ballot -- Gazette.Net


No fewer than seven ballot questions will go before Maryland voters in November’s election, and officials released the precise wording of those questions Monday.

Voters will be asked to vote “for” or “against” three amendments to the state’s constitution, three laws challenged by petition — including one allowing same-sex marriage — and the expansion of gambling approved by lawmakers this past week.

This year’s complement of questions is more than in the past few general election years. There were three questions in 2010 and two in 2008. Such questions were far more common in the 1970s, with 18 in 1972 and 21 in 1976, according to the State Board of Elections.

The first two ballot questions are for constitutional amendments requiring that orphans’ court judges in Prince George’s and Baltimore counties belong to the Maryland Bar Association.

The third question involves an amendment that requires elected officials to be automatically suspended if they are convicted of a crime. Currently, elected officials can stay in office until sentencing.

The fourth question asks voters to accept or reject the Maryland Dream Act, which offers in-state college tuition to some undocumented immigrants; the fifth involves voter approval of Maryland’s new congressional district map; and the sixth lets voters have their say on same-sex marriage.

Those three measures were adopted by the General Assembly, but petitioned to the ballot by opponents.

"The wording is accurate and straightforward and will serve as another way to educate voters," Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which supports same-sex marriage, said in a statement. "This referendum is about equality under the law and protecting religious freedom.”

The seventh question asks voters to accept or reject an expansion of casino gambling in the state; lawmakers narrowly passed the measure in a special session this past week. The law would allow Las Vegas-style table games at the state’s existing casinos and authorize a casino in Prince George’s County.

Lawmakers intend that if most Prince George’s voters reject the plan but a statewide majority accepts it, there will be table games at the slots parlors already approved, but no new casino.

Advertising campaigns for the most contentious issues — gambling, congressional redistricting, same-sex marriage and the Dream Act — are likely to be more intense than for the presidential race in Maryland, said Donald Norris, chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The gambling expansion is likely to pass overwhelmingly, but the Dream Act and same-sex marriage questions are too close to predict, Norris said. Most voters won’t care about redistricting, but if enough conservative voters are drawn out to overturn the other two laws, the new maps could be voted out, Norris said.