Greater Greater Washington

Politics


Endorsements for Maryland ballot questions

This election, Maryland voters face several ballot questions, ranging from civil rights to gambling. These are important issues which will have consequences for the quality of life far beyond Election Day.


Photo by aka_lusi on Flickr.

Greater Greater Washington recommends Maryland voters support questions 3 (removing elected officials), 4 (Dream Act), and 6 (same-sex marriage), and reject the legislature's redistricting plan by voting against question 5.

We did not consider questions 1 or 2, which would require judges serving on the Orphans' Court in Prince George's (question 1) and Baltimore County (question 2) to be members of the Maryland Bar in good standing. We are also not endorsing a position on question 7 (gambling expansion) because our contributors were divided on the issue.

Question 3 (removing elected officials): We recommend voting FOR Question 3.

This question will amend the Maryland Constitution to make it easier to remove elected officials from office once they've been convicted of or plead guilty to certain crimes.

Two recent cases involving officials have resulted in situations that hurt government and left some residents without representation. When Leslie Johnson was convicted on corruption charges in Prince George's, she refused to resign, and Maryland's laws only allowed her ouster upon sentencing. For several months, her council district in Prince George's was effectively without representation.

This change may not stop corruption. But it will make it easier to recover when an elected official does wrong.

Question 4 (Dream Act): We recommend voting FOR Question 4.

Education is a fundamental building block of our democracy. Allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought as children to the United States to attend state universities as residents will create more opportunities for these young people to join our society.

The Dream Act will allow those undocumented immigrants who grow up in Maryland to attend a state university at the in-state tuition rate if they get good grades in high school and spend 2 years in a community college. Opening up this opportunity for our neighbors will grow the Maryland economy and will open up new paths for immigrants who had no say in where they grew up.

Question 5 (redistricting): We recommend voting AGAINST Question 5.

Marylanders are being asked to approve or disapprove a Congressional redistricting proposal. The legislative maps drawn by the Maryland legislature are horribly gerrymandered. For proof, take a look at Maryland's 3rd District, which Comedy Central named the "ugliest congressional district in the nation."


Maryland's 3rd Congressional District. Map from the Maryland Department of Planning.

The authors of this map create what would likely be a new Democratic seat by drawing oddly-shaped districts to divide more conservative voters. This kind of gerrymandering is bad when Republicans do it, and it's bad when Democrats do it.

To make matters worse, it also splits minority groups, making it harder for them to participate effectively in the democratic process. It splits communities, so that members of a single community have multiple disparate representatives who also serve voters of very distant communities with very different needs.

Question 6 (same-sex marriage): We strongly urge you to support marriage for all families by voting FOR Question 6.

In the legislative session earlier this year, the General Assembly courageously passed a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in the Free State. While we oppose the idea that civil rights should be subject to a popular vote, opponents of gay marriage gathered enough signatures to put this issue on the ballot.

Gay couples deserve the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Maryland's expansion of marriage equality will not affect religious institutions, because protections were specifically written into the bill. Equality will mean stronger homes and stronger families for the 17,000 same-sex couples living in the state.

A vote upholding the law will also send a message to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens in the state that they are full members of society, too. Their fellow citizens support them and their right to love whomever they want.

Maryland's LGBT families share the same values as the straight couples in the state. They deserve the same legal recognition of their relationships from the state as well.

Question 7 (gambling expansion): Our contributors split evenly on this issue, and therefore we are not endorsing any position.

Replenishing the education trust fund could provide Maryland with the money it needs to move ahead with projects the Purple Line. However, gambling has adverse social consequences, and would be unlikely to promote sustainable economic development in Prince George's County. Voters should weigh these and others factors themselves in deciding how to vote.

These are the official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority in favor of endorsing for or against each issue.

Comments

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"This kind of gerrymandering is bad when Republicans do it, and it's bad when Democrats do it. "

maybe so, but if its stopped when Dems do it, and allowed to continue in states where the GOP does it, and that effectively shifts the playing field toward the GOP, is that not a bad thing?

If you think the GOP would respond to Dems not gerrymandering, by not gerrymandering themselves, I have a bridge to sell you.

by UnilateralDisarmamentIsBad on Oct 25, 2012 12:36 pm • linkreport

@Unilaterdisarmament--+1. The other thing to consider is that district-drawing has a number of conflicting legitimate purposes, all of which can't be filled at once (for instance, the goal of not splitting minority groups can compete directly with the goal of ensuring competitive elections). There's simply no way to remove politics from the process--the very concept of a non-political district map is an oxymoron.

by Dan Miller on Oct 25, 2012 12:55 pm • linkreport

Not a Maryland voter, but I can't imagine there are two different Question 6s.

As for gerrymandering, I wholeheartedly agree. Even when they provide a partisan advantage at the national level, gerrymandered districts only serve to hurt their constituents on the local level.

by RCH on Oct 25, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

How can there be two Question 6s?

by Tim Krepp on Oct 25, 2012 1:04 pm • linkreport

Gerrymandering can be solved in a relatively simple way: through an algorithm.

Let counties draw their internal borders based on community maps without political data in such a way that borders are minimized. Then, draw all other districts based on whole counties as much as possible, and when not possible based on the smallest number of counties, and subdivided based county districts again striving for the smallest external border of a district. You could even mandate that 'higher' districts are based as much as possible on 'lower' districts (county

Will that still yield weird districts? Yes, but that's a result of wanting districts with equal numbers of residents. And it will never yield MD-3.

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2012 1:05 pm • linkreport

@ Dan Miller:the very concept of a non-political district map is an oxymoron.

I wonder if we have Brits and Canadians around that could comment. Out there, it seems that districts are more geographically bound. But I think the main difference is that in Canada and the UK, are never redrawn, only split when they've grown enough.

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2012 1:07 pm • linkreport

The Maryland redistricting proposal is a disgusting perversion of democracy. The "Democrats have to do it because the Repuplicans do it" argument does not persuade me. On this matter, it is worthy to risk losing on high principle, rather than secure a victory because you have the power to undermine the system.

In my mind, all states should have in their constitutions a redistricting clause that states that district boundaries must be drawn in such a way as to satisfy four criteria:
(1) each district must be as equal in populaton as possible
(2) the total length of all district boundaries must be as short as possible
(3) districts must contact the smallest number of adjoining districts possible
(4) no district may completly surround or contain any other district (not including cases where districts abut state boundaries)

by Dedrick on Oct 25, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, I think we are on the same page. This should be done on the national level. Gerrymandering enforces extremism in politics and discourages representatives with more moderate views.

by cmc on Oct 25, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

Another solution to the gerrymandering question is to expand the size of the house. 435 representatives for 300 million means very little actual representation per citizen. Especially in rural states where a district that could be miles across is literally stretched hundreds of miles.

by drumz on Oct 25, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

I would have preferred that GGW endorsed Question 7. I'm not convinced it will be the revenue boon that its supporters say it will, but any provision which expands the freedom to gamble or operate a gambling establishment is the right step forward.

by Fitz on Oct 25, 2012 1:20 pm • linkreport

I'm against gerrymandering in any form, regardless of whomever does it. I oppose Maryland's map for this reason -- I refuse to buy into any argument of "they're doing it; so we should, too" as in those situations: no one wins.

by Bossi on Oct 25, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

@Jasper- While political subdivisions are an allowable basis for drawing lines, federal courts have always seen that as a low priority. The sine qua non is numerical equality, and then ensuring minority populations aren't diluted is the top priority. After that, political subdivisions can be used as a guide, but they can't overrule the first two considerations. There are a number of gerrymandering cases from the 1960s and 70s striking down districts that emphasized compactness and adherence to city/county lines (e.g. Board of Estimate v. Morris; Kirkpatrick v. Priesler).

Btw, does anyone know if a VRA lawsuit is on the horizon? It would be ironic to see a Democratic gerrymander fall because it dilutes the minority population.

CA's proposition system is often rightfully derided, but they electoral reforms instituted by the voters there really have improved the electoral process. Bipartisan redistricting outside of the Legislature's control and top-two primaries are shaking up the system in a good way. More states, including MD, should take up those systems.

by JW on Oct 25, 2012 1:25 pm • linkreport

Also a big fan of increasing the size of the house. When it was originally conceived, it was 1 member per 13,000 citizens. Now it is something like 1 member per 700,000 citizens, and on the way to one per 1,000,000 citizens in the next 40 years or so.

Each seat is now so important, and that is why you see such expensive races. Increase it tenfold, and you will see much better representation for a group of people.

by Kyle-w on Oct 25, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

@ cmc:This should be done on the national level.

Unfortunately, your constitution leaves elections to the states. So, it has to happen on a state level.

I see little difference between partisan gerrymandering (if that is not a pleonasm) and opposing drawing normal districts for partisan reasons.

Finally, I don't think that partisanship is the main driver against this. The problem is that while the people will benefit from non-partisan districts, politicians will not. Incumbents are virtually assured from re-election, even those in the minority. Why would they ever vote to end that system?

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2012 1:32 pm • linkreport

high principle vs partisan advantage

For a couple of decades the Dems let themselves be Atwatered/Roved and wouldnt give back as good as they got. The consequences for the US, and for the world, were not good.

Since 2008, Dems have stopped playing the unilateral disarmament game.

CMS is right - this needs to be addressed national - if theres some way congress can do it fine. If not, maybe we need a constitutional amendment.

But doing it the one Dem state to do so egregiously, and not in GOP states, when the House hangs in the balance, and will be deciding things of importance to the future of our country (including global warming) is irresponsible.

by UnilateralDisarmamentIsBad on Oct 25, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

"The problem is that while the people will benefit from non-partisan districts, politicians will not. Incumbents are virtually assured from re-election, even those in the minority."

it used to be mostly incumbent protection. recently its gotten much more partisan.

by UnilateralDisarmamentIsBad on Oct 25, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

it used to be mostly incumbent protection. recently its gotten much more partisan.

Not everywhere. In CA moving redistricting from the Democratic-dominated state legislature to a commission where Democrats were proportionally underrepresented created additional Democratic districts, because the legislature had been gerrymandering for stability. Districts drawn with reduced political influence ended up better reflecting the state, which made them more liberal.

MD is gerrymandered the way it is because O'Malley wants to show how good of a soldier for the party he is. It's all about 2016. The next gerrymander might not be so good for the Dems.

by JW on Oct 25, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport

@UnilateralDisarmamentIsBad: You seem to be seeing everything entirely through the lense of which party controls. You seem to accept the premise that the politicians must control, so you only care which faction of that oligarchy gets the power.

The alternative that we have in Maryland is for the voters to control. They can start by rejecting proposals whose primary objective is to outwit the voters into providing them with their pre-determined result.

Do not be so sure that voters in the "red states" are any happier with political tinkering by Republican politicans. If Maryland governors dare to tell the politicans that we want our government back, are you sure that citizens in other states with the option of veto by referendum will not do likewise?

As an added benefit, it might not hurt Maryland to have a couple of moderate Republicans looking out for our interests if Republicans retain control after Rep. Hoyer retires. Under the current system, moderate Republicans generally lose the primary, as was the case with Rep. Gilchrist

by Jim T on Oct 25, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

I'm hoping that when GGW gets around to the candidates, it will use a more evidence-based approach. I'd like to see a "score" based on their records and/or platforms on urban issues. Editorial endorsements are fine as they are, but I'd rather have harder evidence and make up my own mind.

by Ben on Oct 25, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

@ UnilateralDisarmamentIsBad:this needs to be addressed national - if theres some way congress can do it fine. If not, maybe we need a constitutional amendment.

Great, then it will happen at the same time as DC gets ful representation: never.

Look, the point of states' rights is that states can experiment with things. Go experiment!

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2012 2:43 pm • linkreport

I'm a DC resident strongly urging MD voters to support the expansion of table games, Question 7, so I won't have to drive all the way from DC to West Virginia or Delaware to get my poker fix.

Think of all the gas we could save by opening up poker rooms closer to DC....

Plus MD already has a bunch of casinos. This measure would open up table games, just another form of gambling, which appeal to higher income players, so its not as much of a regressive tax. And were I a MD resident I would be really upset about the tens of millions spent by a casino in West Virginia to convince voters in MD to oppose a bill essentially moving a boat load of tax money frm West Virginia to MD.

by Turtleshell on Oct 25, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

"If Maryland governors dare to tell the politicans that we want our government back, are you sure that citizens in other states with the option of veto by referendum will not do likewise"

yes, I am sure they will not.

"Great, then it will happen at the same time as DC gets ful representation: never."

maybe. I am prepared to wait. I have seen too much damage from the GOP House to consider the difference between parties of lesser importance. It is not.

by UnilateralDisarmamentisbad on Oct 25, 2012 2:52 pm • linkreport

As a Marylander, I'm voting yes to Question 7.

Here's why: The push for "no" votes is being led by West Virginia casino interests. I'm not that crazy about casinos, but if Marylanders are going to gamble then let them have a place to spend their money here in Maryland.

by ceefer66 on Oct 25, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

Here is an excerpt posted to our community listserv from our house delegate:

The part of the bill that is subject to the vote does three key things: (1) it allows 24 hour-seven day a week operation (frankly, one of the more disturbing prospects because of the impact on problem gamblers), (2) it adds table games to all locations, and (3) it authorizes a new casino in Prince George's (presumably at National Harbor but not guaranteed to be there).

As a result of this, the Department of Legislative Services projects that gambling revenues will go up by some $711 million a year by 2017. Of this, the owners will get roughly $435 million; the Education Trust Fund will get a net increase of $39.5 million. Prince George's County will get $16 million, 40% of which must be spent on infrastructure along Route 210.

Taking $711 million out of the pockets of people and families, to get a measly $39.5 million is not a good deal. The state's education budget is close to $6 billion. $39.5 million isn't going to make any difference.

Likewise, adding $16 million to the almost $3 billion county budget isn't going to make a great deal of difference.

To be sure, there are some "multiplier" benefits from this from secondary sources, but the economic "multiplier" for gambling is nowhere near that for similar investments in more productive enterprises. Gambling is not our only
economic development option.

by thump on Oct 25, 2012 4:11 pm • linkreport

However, gambling has adverse social consequences, and would be unlikely to promote sustainable economic development in Prince George's County.

So, does drinking but opening new bars seems to have plenty of support in the new urbanist crowd. Also, why would a casino be any less likely to promote economic development than a bar or restaurant or cupcake house?

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

Bars aren't open 24/7.

I don't know the economic impact of different types of businesses, but my guess is that it's more likely that a small local business keeps more money circulating in the community.

by thump on Oct 25, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

@Thump,

1. I'm sure readers of a blog like Greater Greater Washington understand the benefits of opening casinos near DC so people don't have to drive over 100 miles round trip to play poker. Closer table games are good for the environment and will lessen traffic on our roads. It is a pain to drive to West Virginia to play poker.

2. I'm not sure how much tax money is at stake, but if people are gonna play cards why not keep the money in MD and generate some tax revenue for the state rather then letting it drive over to West Virginia, Delaware or Pennsylvania.

3. When I play poker I usually play late into the night. I really don't want a casino that closes early because Thump thinks its bad for me. I'm 45 and this is America. I ought to be free to play a little poker if I want, when I want.

4. OK, there are problems with the bill. I am not a proponent of earmarking the tax revenue to education since the money is fungible. For example, if the tax generates $40 million a year then budget writers can allocate $40 million a year less to schools. It is a lame trick to make the bill look good to voters. I'm also under the impression gambling revenue in MD helps subsidize the hoarse racing industry which is crazy. Its one thing to allow gambling and another to subsidize it.

To sum it up. This America. Adults who want to play poker ought to be free to play poker. just like they can buy a drink or smoke a cigarette. Especially if they are paying a premium to to government to exercise their free will.

by Turtleshell on Oct 25, 2012 5:59 pm • linkreport

A vote for question 5 is a vote for a Democratic congress. A vote against question 5 is a vote for GOP congress. For a decade. No matter which redistricting plan wins, you'll rarely get this chance to affect Congress. Most of us will wind up in partisan districts anyway.

by Ed on Oct 25, 2012 8:49 pm • linkreport

@thump: The casinos aren't 24/7 either.

by selxic on Oct 26, 2012 7:48 am • linkreport

Taking $711 million out of the pockets of people and families . . .
People AND families?!? I could handle taking money from one group (in the form of them choosing to spend their money in a particular place, which is definitely taking), but not both. Who's with me?

by Gray on Oct 26, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

I mistyped and didn't add "yet" to my last post. They aren't 24/7 yet.

by selxic on Oct 26, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

Vote yes for QUESTION 7, at the very least it will create jobs.

by Jenifer on Oct 28, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

Gerrymandering

@Jasper

Gerrymandering can be solved in a relatively simple way: through an algorithm.

It can also be caused by an algorithm. What goes into that algorithm is what defines it as gerrymandering.
____

+1 to drumz on expanding the House, but we'd still have gerrymandering. It goes back to the beginning of the nation.
____

I oppose gerrymandering, but as long as it's legal, one would be foolish not to do it. I don't like the designated hitter rule either, but if I were a manager in a league that allowed it, I'd use it. This is the same thing.

Look, being the minority party of the House is useless. There is a massive difference between a 1 vote majority and a 1 vote minority. Asking one party to ignore this is the equivalent of asking one side of the cold war to give up nuclear weapons because they're too dangerous. It's the path to losing and our system is built upon the premise - relies on it, in fact - that sides don't want to lose. You can't build your system on this premise, and then ask people to act against their best interests.

An amendment to fix this would be nice - but unlikely, and I'm not sure what it would look like. Having states make agreements not to gerrymander (We'll use the CA system if you do) is more likely, but also difficult to negotiate. But single-handedly disarming - that's not how are system works.

Gambling

Well, Maryland should not have added gambling for the reasons thump noted. Namely, it will send a lot of money out of Maryland.

@Turtleshell

I won't have to drive all the way from DC to West Virginia or Delaware to get my poker fix.

You don't have to drive to West Virginia. You can take the train to Atlantic City.

if people are gonna play cards why not keep the money in MD

Because it is not a choice between 100 people playing in WVA and 100 in MD. It is between 100 people playing in WVA and 20,000 people playing in MD.

I would be really upset about the tens of millions spent by a casino in West Virginia to convince voters in MD to oppose a bill essentially moving a boat load of tax money frm West Virginia to MD.

This is not state vs. state. It's one set of casino owners vs. another set.

by David C on Oct 30, 2012 3:12 pm • linkreport

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