Maryland voters face hefty ballot in November

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Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Maryland voters will face a lengthy ballot in November, with at least seven questions voters across the state will need to answer in addition to voting for president and other elected officials.

The Maryland Court of Appeals approved a referendum on the state's new congressional districts. The General Assembly advanced the map in October as part of the state's once-in-a-decade review of congressional districts, but opponents of the map say it was gerrymandered to help elect more Democrats to Congress.

The Leslie Johnson rule
One of the measures going before Maryland voters in November would require elected officials at the state, county or municipal levels to leave their positions after pleading guilty or being found guilty of felonies or certain misdemeanors.
Under currently Maryland law, officials can stay in office until their sentencing, which could be months after someone is convicted.
The arguable need for the change was highlighted when former Prince George's County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson held on to her council seat after she pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in a case in which she infamously flushed a $100,000 check down a toilet and stuffed $79,600 in cash in her bra and underwear to hide the money from FBI agents who were knocking at her door.

"This map discriminates against minorities all across the state," said Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, who led the fight to get the issue on the ballot. "It splits them up really just to favor [incumbent Democrats] -- I call this map the Incumbent Protection Act."

The Maryland Democratic Party fought the ballot initiative in court, basing its challenge on the fact that the map's opponents collected signatures online, but ultimately lost.

Party spokesman Matthew Verghese called the referendum "an attempt to subvert legislative procedure."

Maryland voters also will decide whether the state can add a sixth casino, in Prince George's County, and whether table games should be allowed, after Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill approving both this week.

Even if voters statewide opt to expand gambling, Prince George's County voters get the final say on whether a new casino can open in the county. This is the second time in four years that gambling will go before Maryland voters.

Other statewide ballot measures include one that would legalize same-sex marriage and another that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates -- both key issues for O'Malley. A third measure would require elected officials found guilty of felonies or certain misdemeanors to be suspended or removed from office.

The final two measures would change the requirements for judges of the state's probate courts in Baltimore and Prince George's counties.

Voters in several counties also will have local ballot questions to answer.

Montgomery County voters can decide whether the county's police union restores its right to "effects bargaining" -- the ability to bargain almost any management decision, including a requirement that police equipment be distributed by need, rather than seniority, as the union wanted -- after the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the referendum.

And if local activist Robin Ficker gets his way, Montgomery County voters will have the opportunity to limit lawmakers' ability to increase the county's energy tax.

County Executive Ike Leggett refused to submit Ficker's petitions to the county Board of Elections, arguing that the county's authority tax cannot be challenged in a county ballot measure. But Ficker plans to file a lawsuit fighting Leggett's move next week.

Ficker has until Sept. 11, when the state ballot needs to be finalized.

Staff Writer Ben Giles contributed reporting.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner