Voters voice concern over several ballot issues while braving long lines and extended wait periods to cast their ballots
It was only the second time that Marylanders have experienced the 2008-voter approved constitutional amendment that allowed for citizens to vote early – for an extended amount of days prior to election day – and they seemed to have taken full advantage of the process thus far. In only two days of Early Voting, places like Baltimore City have seen turnout numbers almost exceed the entire early voting turnout of six days during the 2010 Gubernatorial Election. Having an estimated 14,942 voters turnout in 48-hours to the five early voting centers throughout the City of Baltimore, far exceeded many election officials expectations – coming close to eclipsing the total early voting number of 19,856 in 2010.
“I’m ecstatically pleased with the level of enthusiasm exhibited by the citizens across this city, and apparently across the state as well, by participating fully in the electoral process as early as possible,” says Cory McCray, one of Baltimore City’s Election Board members. “This is a clear example that the citizens of Maryland are concerned about that vast amount of issues that confront us today, that will have a long-lasting impact on the future of this great state and city.”
And thanks in part to the exit polling conducted by members of the Independent Movement Political Action Club, along with various online social media statements made by voters participating in the early voting process; it seems as if the voters appear more concerned about their opposition and/or support of local and statewide ballot issues than they are the candidates running for federal office. “I’m definitely voting for the President, Barack Obama, and really haven’t made up mind as to which U.S. Senate candidate I’ll vote for yet,” said Julie Andrews, a Northeast Baltimore resident standing in line for almost three-hours to cast her vote at Baltimore’s Coldspring EV site located in the League of Disabilities center. “But I know for sure what I’m voting against once I get in there, Questions five and seven; as they are both bad deals for Maryland.”
And while Ms. Andrews seemed vehemently opposed to the redistricting map crafted by the state, as well as the expansion of gambling in the state; she was even more excited about her support for Same Sex Marriage, which she believed was a civil right being denied to those who have every right to be happily married. “It’s not as if they are breaking the law, which Question 4 asks voters to do, break the law for illegal immigrants to be given tax breaks that could go to my child – or yours,” said an impassioned Andrews. “They just want the same rights you or I would obtain if married. What’s so wrong with that?” And her feelings towards Question 6 seemed to be the overarching sentiment amongst a clear majority of local voters, many of whom felt it none of their business to deny access to these couples.
However, Ralph Reed thought different, and he made it evidently clear when discussing this issue amongst a large group of patient voters waiting to get inside to cast their ballot. “This law flies in the face of every moral commandment given to us by our creator, and I for one refuse to vote for something that goes contrary to what my God has prescribed for me in the Bible – simply to score some cheap political points for those pushing this measure,” said the 47-year old Baltimore resident. And this level of contempt seemed to have brought on a lively debate amongst voters, and the numerous campaign workers present – both for and against this measure.
“This law does not alienate anyone, nor does it require religious groups to have to perform same sex marriages if they choose not to,” said Meredith Moise, a local activist and proponent of the measure. But Reed contends that it will force institutions of learning, i.e. Baltimore City schools, to begin teaching that this behavior is acceptable based on it being state law. And while this argument lasted a good 45-minutes to an hour, another contentious and polarizing issue was brought forth during this debate that led many to just shake their heads in disgust.
The Maryland DREAM Act was debated for about another hour or so, as many people weren’t clear on the language of the bill, rather relying more on what they heard on television or radio ads and debates. “Why should we give these individuals tax breaks when they can’t play by the same rules as we do,” asked one onlooker. A campaign proponent of the measure chimed in saying that these children deserve a chance at a better education, and shouldn’t have to suffer for the mistakes their families made. However, that argument was consistently shot down by a ‘political expert’ who refused to have their name appear in this article, who broke down the specifics regarding this bill. “They don’t have to pay Maryland taxes, they only have to file income tax returns – big difference. They are no longer children, so if they truly loved this country they would have already filed for legal immigration status, and even if they get a great education paid for with taxpayer money, they will still not be able to get hired at any firm or company – based on federal law prohibiting employers from hiring illegal aliens. Period!”
Yet, despite the pleas of this individual, a slim majority of those polled throughout the various sites around Baltimore still seemed in favor of this piece of legislation. However, one ballot question that seems almost destined to fail is Question 7, the expanded gambling measure passed by the Maryland General Assembly during a second special session earlier this year. Despite being inundated by a barrage of television, radio and internet ads for and against the measure, and apparently having more vocal campaign workers at the polls on both days of early voting; voters seem consistently resistant to the passage of this legislation. From concerns about money not going to education like it was promised to do, which it failed to do as promised in previous legislation from the lottery to both local sports stadiums; to the issue of tax breaks being given to these wealthy casino owners, voters seemed overwhelmingly opposed to this statewide issue.
Yet, despite the very educated voters on these various statewide ballot questions, most seemed uninterested and ignorant to the various local ballot questions that face them on this year’s ballot as well. Having no clue as to the vital Questions J, K, L and M, most voters blamed the mass media and the lack of commercials on the issues that seemed foreign to them. And while this is certainly of major concern, especially that of the mainstream media essentially ignoring these issues being more focused on the sexy and polarizing statewide issues; it certainly gives voters no excuse as to why they haven’t made an attempt to educate themselves on these issues – nor does it excuse a very lackadaisical Board of Elections who should have done a better job of informing the voters on the historically high number of ballot questions facing local residents. (20 to be exact) These issues highlight a fundamental change in the way things are done in Baltimore, and a differencing of philosophy on how they are implemented.
While Question J – the Stormwater Utility bill – may be needed for the long-term infrastructure of the city’s waste water management system, it also comes with a high price (tax) being added onto the residents of Baltimore, which was not articulated in the ballot question language. Question K – the municipal elections bill – is equally of high importance to the voters, who were not told about or consulted regarding the change to their local election cycle – which in this bill would change it to the Presidential Election cycle. While there are major reasons why this bill is bad for the citizenry and possible challengers to incumbent legislators – which this bill appears intent on protecting; it also flies in the face of constitutional and legal protections set in place by the Voting Rights Act – as it adds an additional year onto a term of office agreed upon by the voters less than a year prior. This arrogant and disrespectful bill went against the wishes of a litany of arguments made by a variety of local community, civil, human and voting rights groups opposed to its implementation and in favor of aligning the city’s elections with that of the rest of the state – during the Gubernatorial Election cycle.
Question L – the Minority Party Representation bill – would change how the appointment process of local boards and commissions are conducted; no longer allowing Independent and third-party voters to be excluded from sitting on these vitally important decision making boards and commissions. And Question M – the Quadrennial Audits bill – would mandate much needed audits of the top 13 city agencies in Baltimore, on a four year basis; though it’s nowhere near the magnitude initially proposed by its sponsor Councilman Carl Stokes – which mandated that all 55-city agencies, departments, boards and commissions be audited on an annual basis.
However, while all these ballot measures seem to have inspired the voters to the polls early, encouraged by groups like the NAACP, IMPAC, WOLB1010AM, the city state senators and others who urged voters to vote early based on the number of ballot questions, not previously witnessed throughout the history of Maryland elections; it means nothing if the majority of these voters are uneducated to the entirety of the questions presented, due in part to the inadequate educational process regarding many of these issues. Though it seems to bode well for a Democratic Party banking on high turnout to ensure the President’s re-election, as well as guaranteeing a second term for the incumbent democratic US Senator Ben Cardin; what it does to ensure that Marylanders approve or reject both good and bad public policy, still remains to be seen. Needless to say, a record turnout in the General Election is certainly needed, especially based on the dismal Primary turnout we witnessed in April; however, how Maryland moves forward after the results of many of these critical ballot questions are revealed on Election Night, will determine how legislators carefully craft legislation in the future that is now subject to a very successful ballot petition effort.
**Be sure to stay tuned to this Examiner over the next week leading up to Election Day in Maryland, as I will continue to break down the multiple ballot questions and candidates, release polling data and the likelihood of their passage or election; as well as on Election Night, as I will be giving you up-to-date election results as to the passage or failure of ALL the questions, candidates and more as a part of my ValueMyVote series.
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