Get ready for a historic election, perhaps the most unique in Maryland history. No, not the elective offices — Obama will win Maryland by 15 points, Cardin's re-election is certain, and all the congressional Democrats have been safely gerrymandered for the next decade.
However, for the first time in memory, four explosive ballot questions face voters Nov. 6. It's been 20 years since a single law was petitioned to referendum; now we have four.
Why? Because of Neil Parrott, the freshman GOP delegate who used the Internet to salvage our right to referendum — our final say on acts of the state legislature. Before Parrott, the legislature and the courts crippled the referendum by making it almost impossible to gather the 55,700 valid signatures required to petition a law to referendum. The law says petition signers must sign their names exactly as they appear on their voter registration cards at their board of elections — any variance and the signature is invalid, a requirement so strict that it killed most petition drives.
Del. Parrott ingeniously devised an Internet method of linking petition signers to their election boards so they could sign petitions correctly online. That's why, instead of being flooded with candidate TV ads you're being flooded with ballot question TV ads. As you work through the confusion and disinformation, here are two pieces of advice.
First, remember that these four laws are up for your approval or disapproval. Your “yes” vote means you want the law to go into effect, your “no” vote means the law is a bad idea that should not go forward.
Second, for what it's worth, here's my view on each question.
Question 4, the Dream Act
This one's a close call. It's about illegal aliens who live in Maryland and want to attend our public colleges and universities. Under current law they must enroll as out-of-state students. The Dream Act lets them enroll as in-state students so they can pay the lower in-state tuition rates (a $16,000 per year savings at UMCP).
Proponents correctly point out that educating these residents is in our best interest and that only a few will meet all the hurdles: graduate from a Maryland high school and community college, parents file taxes, gain academic admission.
Opponents correctly point out that we're rewarding lawbreaking, making Maryland a magnet for additional illegals and punishing waiting-list immigrants playing by the rules.
I'm extremely sympathetic to folks seeking refuge here from persecution and poverty, an American ideal. But I'm equally sympathetic to every American student who surrenders a university seat to an illegal, thanks to the Dream Act. I might vote “yes,” but right now I'm 50/50.
Question 5, the congressional redistricting map
This one is easy. Gov. O'Malley and the Democrats grossly abused their power and duty to reapportion Maryland's eight congressional districts.
Communities were divided, counties chopped up, minorities disenfranchised, all so the Democrats could gerrymander Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican, out of office. The result is a bizarre map just named the least compact (most gerrymandered) in the nation by an independent study. Proud of being No. 1, Maryland?
Voting “no” isn't about saving Bartlett, it's about reform. If Bartlett and Question 5 both lose, the election stands and Bartlett's opponent goes to Congress while his district is being redrawn.
But here's a golden opportunity to send the State House a message demanding that redistricting be turned over to an independent, nonpartisan commission. Vote “no” and pass the word.
Question 6, same-sex marriage
This is ground zero in the culture wars between organized religion (and what's left of our traditional values) versus the secular left. Will Maryland voters be the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage?
Proponents argue that it's a civil rights issue, that they have homosexual friends and family, that gay marriage doesn't personally affect them or that the only way to appease the gay lobby is to redefine marriage.
Without apology, I'm voting “no.” My faith, Roman Catholic, teaches that homosexual sex is a mortal sin and, in my view, gay sex (two men engaged in anal intercourse) doesn't rise to the dignity of marriage. To maintain a 2,000-year-old moral tradition, vote “no.”
Question 7, gambling expansion
Are you sick of the TV ads yet? In 2008, Maryland voters legalized slots at five venues. Now, this law adds a sixth site (in P.G. County), permits table games and triggers huge tax cuts for the casinos.
I'm voting “no” because I'm sick of the education funding hoax. The first line of Question 7 says it's “for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.” That big lie worked back in 2008, but here's what's happened since.
Slots generated $184 million in so-called education revenue but not one penny was added to the state's $5.8 billion education spending level. Instead, the new $184 million from slots was simply used to replace $184 million of education funds generated from other revenues. Then the “freed-up” $184 million was spent on non-education programs.
You don't believe me? Well, look at the “apple ballot” you just got in the mail. It's silent on Question 7 because the state teachers union knows that state gambling revenues have not, and will not, result in any net gain in state education aid levels.
If you're tired of the big lie, vote “no” on Question 7.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.