The deadline has passed and the ballot is finalized for the presidential election in November. With few days to spare the legislature met and approved (by a 1 vote margin) expanded gambling which is one of seven statewide questions on the ballot for voter approval.
Presidential election campaigns rarely touch Maryland directly and so with little else to do it is a great time every four years to dispose of controversial state issues. Measures can be discussed, passed and hopefully forgotten before Marylanders get around to considering truly “important races” such as Governor, Senator or Delegate.
For that reason Maryland politics has a certain rhythm. Tax increases and most things controversial occur during the presidential cycle. What is different this time, and frightening, is the shear scope and audacity of these measures.
In addition to the largest tax increase in the history of the state, our Governor has pushed hard in a number of areas in direct opposition to the citizenry. As proof I would point to the political jujitsu that was necessary to force these measures into law.
The back room deals, the special legislative sessions, the political threats and payoffs to merely eek out a 1 or 2 vote margin on controversial issues such as illegal aliens, gay marriage and gambling dishonor the institution and prove that the issues lack majority support.
What is different this time is that average citizens are fighting back. For the first time hundreds of grassroots activists stepped up and dedicated their time to stop these measures. They have taken advantage of an obscure provision in the state constitution not used since 1992 and collected hundreds of thousand of voters’ signatures to stop these measures until the voters had a chance to vote.
The question of gambling was placed directly on the ballot by the actions of the legislature, but the gifts to illegals, gay marriage and congressional redistricting would already be law if not for the efforts of these individuals. By collecting the required signatures all measures were stopped until the next election for a vote. A vote that will take place during a presidential election.
The activists have been eagerly awaiting the ballot deadline to see the actual wording of the questions, which is set by governor appointees and can skew the vote. For that reason the questions were published at the last possible moment to prevent any challenge in the courts.
A review of the language is disappointing, particularly on gay marriage which requires voters who disapprove of gay marriage to vote against the “Civil Marriage Protection Act” which is very misleading. Still it is a wonderful day for Maryland democracy, a new chapter in state government.
If the voters defeat all of these questions, or even just one, it will have the positive effect of providing a psychological check on state government. A defeat will provide some much needed humility to an out of control system and will make our state leaders more open to compromise before seeking to ram the next great idea through state government.