Maryland is not a swing state in the presidential election. Still, there is good reason to vote Tuesday. The presence on the ballot of three important questions makes this a pivotal election for the state of Maryland.
The eyes of the nation are on our state, because we have a chance to adopt our own version of the Dream Act for the children of undocumented immigrants. By voting in favor of Question 4 we have an opportunity to regain our lost role as a leader of progressive politics in the United States.
Question 4 would enable undocumented immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools and intend to apply for permanent residence to pay in-county tuition rates at Maryland community colleges. In addition, undocumented immigrants who complete 60 hours of study at a community college would be eligible for in-state tuition and Maryland’s four-year colleges and universities. Student would have to fulfill other requirements as well.
Maryland already has invested in elementary and secondary education for these students. An enhanced opportunity for higher education would help them to fulfill their potential and contribute positively to the economy and society of our state and nation. A study by the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis & Research found that the costs of the Dream Act are far outweighed by additional state revenue and lower costs of incarceration and welfare.
Passage of the Dream Act is by no means assured. A Washington Post poll found that by a margin of 59 percent to 35 percent the people of Maryland support the Dream Act. But a more recent poll by OpinionWorks for The Baltimore Sun found voters equally divided, with 47 percent for Question 4 and 45 percent against. Turnout will decide the Dream Act’s fate.
Question 6, which would legalize gay and lesbian marriage in Maryland, is another proposition with national implications that merits our support. No one in our state should suffer discrimination because of who they choose to love. Those in Maryland who oppose same-sex marriage on biblical grounds, might well consider that for centuries the Bible was used to justify slavery and segregation.
The experience of several other states with same-sex marriage demonstrates that it poses no threat whatsoever to traditional marriage or morality. Likewise, federal courts in California litigation on the issue found that opponents of same-sex marriage failed to demonstrate absolutely any harm from its legalization.
In 1973, Maryland had the dubious distinction of becoming the first state in the nation to ban same-sex marriage legislatively. It is only fitting that by supporting Question 6, Maryland should become the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage by a popular vote of the people. Again, the recent OpinionWorks survey found that voters were about equally divided on Question 6. Supporters of marriage equality need to show up in force if Maryland is to make history Nov. 6.
Not surprisingly, it is Question 7 on legalized gambling that has attracted the big money, both for and against. Question 7 would authorize the development of a new casino with table games in Prince George’s County and establish table games at five other sites initially set up only for slot machine gambling.
Proponents and opponents of Question 7 have spent some $60 million combined, much more than the record spending for any ballot question in the history of the state. Gambling interests have provided nearly all of this funding. When the final counting is done, spending on Question 7 may well about triple the amount that gubernatorial candidates Martin O’Malley and Robert Ehrlich spent on the 2010 general election in Maryland.
Gaming companies with interests in other states have bankrolled the opposition campaign. Companies seeking to expand operations in Maryland have funded the campaign, backing Question 7. Although Marylanders largely have been spared the presidential ads, we have been inundated with pro and con commercials on Question 7.
The ad campaign has at least created public doubt about Question 7, which usually is a bad sign for any ballot question. The OpinionWorks poll found that voters opposed Question 7 by a hefty margin of 54 percent to 39 percent.
My own view is a plague on both their houses. On balance, though, given all the lies, false promises and corruption that have accompanied gambling expansion in our state, I would stand with the majority in opposing any effort to give the gaming industry a stronger grip on our state. We know that the more we give in to the gambling interests, the more they will demand. The expansion of legalized gambling is the slipperiest of slippery slopes.
Allan J. Lichtman is a professor of history at American University and a national political analyst. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.