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Del. Olszewski: Big Questions Join Candidates on Ballot

The state delegate writes about the questions voters face in November.

In less than two months, people from the sixth legislative district will join Americans across the country to exercise one of our most sacred and fundamental rights—the right to vote.

In particular, Maryland has no shortage of very important issues that will be decided at the polls this year. In addition to the usual presidential-year contests (President and Vice President of the United States, House of Representativesand United States Senator), there are seven statewide questions on the ballot this fall.

Of these seven questions, four are General Assembly-proposed constitutional amendments that were passed by the legislature and must be approved by voters to stand, and the remaining three were placed on the ballot as a result of a successful petition process. 

For comparison, in all of the elections dating back to 2004 combined, there have been a total of nine statewide ballot questions.  Of these, the most notable have been two of the 2008 referendum questions, in which voters opted to approve early voting and slots casinos.  

The constitutional amendments requiring voter approval include two changes to the Orphans Court—the court with limited oversight of wills, estates, and property and assets left to minors.

Both amendments require that Orphans Court judges be practicing lawyers (currently not a requirement), and are separate questions as to whether to apply the qualification in Baltimore County as well as in Prince George’s County. 

Another amendment would remove elected officials from office immediately after conviction for certain crimes. Currently, there is a loophole that has allowed some officials to delay removal because they have not been sentenced for crimes of which they were convicted.

The remaining questions are much more debated and will likely see considerable attention through the various forms of media. First, voters will be deciding whether or not to uphold the law allowing for same-sex marriage. If the issue is affirmed at the poll, Maryland would be the first state ever to approve marriage equality by a public vote. 

Another hotly-debated question will be whether or not the state should grant in-state tuition for both documented immigrants unable to establish residency as well as undocumented immigrants. Maryland’s version of the “Dream Act” would grant state resident rates at the state’s colleges after students meet certain criteria.

Finally, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not the newly-drawn congressional districts should remain intact.

In addition to the statewide questions, there is a host of borrowing questions related to Baltimore County—from parks and schools to waste and waterway improvements.

Fortunately, all of the questions are structured in a straightforward way.  If you support the respective issue, you should vote “yes.” If you oppose any of the ballot issues, you should cast a “no” vote.

A full review of all questions can be found at the Maryland State Board of Elections’ site: http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2012/ballot_questions.html.

I encourage everyone to take the time to review the candidates and issues that will be on the ballot—and then to vote, regardless of your candidate or issue of choice. 

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