Ballot Watch: Mid-Atlantic
This is Ballot Watch. Today is the 14th in the series of articles on the upcoming ballot initiatives and some key local elections. Some of these covered topics in common with multiple states, but the remainder look at a state level. With the second of the two-part article on the South which runs tomorrow, our series will close.
The mid-Atlantic states are a mixed bag, including the Democratic-leaning Delaware, District of Columbia, and Maryland, the very conservative West Virginia, and a state on the partisan knife-edge, the swing state of Virginia. Though Delaware is represented by long-term Republican Representative Mike Castle, the longest-serving representative in the state’s history, it will almost certainly give its three electoral votes to Barack Obama. The District of Columbia has a non-voting representative in Congress. None of these races are likely to produce surprises.
Congressional District 6 includes the western reaches of the state. Incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Frederick) has represented this Cook D+2 district since 1993. He is being challenged by Democrat and progressive businessman John K. Delaney. A poll in early August showed the two virtually tied. Delany has raised nearly four times as much campaign money as Bartlett, just under $3 million to $850,000. This race could definitely furnish a pickup in the Democrats’ attempt to wrest back control of the House. Bartlett is 86 years old; he may actually welcome retirement.
There are several ballot measures in Maryland this year:
Questions 1 and 2 would require judges of the Orphans’ Court for Prince George’s County and Baltimore County, respectively, to have been admitted to practice law in Maryland and be in good standing with the Maryland Bar. One might have thought judges would have been so required all along.
Question 3 specifies conditions under which elected officials convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors would be removed from office. From the text of the ballot question: “Under existing law, an elected official who is convicted or pleads no contest is suspended and is removed only when the conviction becomes final. Under the amended law, an elected official is suspended when found guilty and is removed when the conviction becomes final or when the elected official pleads guilty or no contest.” This begs a larger question: Should being convicted of a felony make one ineligible for elected office? If so, why?
Question 4 would allow immigrants to pay in-state or in-county tuition at Maryland colleges. In order to qualify, students would be required to have attended a Maryland high school for three years, as well as prove that their parents or they themselves filed taxes. Initially, students that qualify would have to attend a community college. After two years, the students can transfer to a four year university. According to reports, the legislation is estimated to cost $3.5 million by 2016. This Question was actually put on the ballot in an effort to defeat it; see a longer explanation of the process in the description of Question 5, below. How do you feel about allowing undocumented immigrants to attend college, and to do so at in-state rates?
Question 5 would approve Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan, which was passed by the state legislature in October 2011. The referendum allows voters to decide whether Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan will be upheld. That is, the legislature approved the plan, but it was challenged, by a group called Maryland Petitions. A vote for the Question is a vote for the plan; but the point of putting the Question on the ballot is to encourage citizens to defeat the plan. According to Maryland State Delegate Justin Ready, who is spearheading the referendum, the state has been too gerrymandered: “The map, which passed in October, takes Carroll County out of its traditional pairing with Western Maryland and splits us into two congressional districts. So, Taneytown is in the same district as Ocean City and Westminster is connected to Silver Spring in a district that is shaped like the country of Thailand.”
Question 6, known as the Same-Sex Marriage Referendum, which Monotreme covered in the Ballot Watch on Same-Sex Marriage would approve a law that allows same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license. The measure is in response to the enactment of the Civil Marriage Protection Act on March 1, 2012, which will allow same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license in the state beginning January 1, 2013, and protect clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs. The referendum allows voters to decide whether the law will be upheld. As with Question 5, it was brought to the ballot in an effort to defeat it.
Question 7, the Gaming Expansion Question, allows a new casino to be built in Prince George’s County, and would expand the type of games allowed at existing casinos. The purpose of such changes is usually to avoid or limit the need for tax increases.
This swing state could decide the Presidential race. There is also a competitive Congressional race with a vulnerable Republican incumbent who was swept into office as part of the 2010 wave.
Congressional District 2 consists of a peninsula hanging southward from Maryland and a bit of the southeast corner of the mainland portion of the state. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+5. It is represented in Congress by freshman Representative (and former car dealer) Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach). During the 2010 primaries, he came under attack from his primary opponents for having sold 138 cars under the Cash for Clunkers program, which Rigell subsequently criticized as “reckless bailouts and an out-of-control federal debt.” was also attacked for making campaign contributions to Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries. He is opposed this year by Democrat Paul Odell Hirschbiel, Jr., the owner and President of Eden Capital, a Virginia Beach-based consulting and investing firm. Though this is a Republican-leaning district, the Democrat may have a good chance. Fundraising for the two has been competitive — $1.6 million for RIgell, vs. $1.1 million for Hirschbiel.
There are two ballot measures this year in Virginia:
Question 1 deals with notions of property rights and the concept of eminent domain. The ballot measure would limit instances when private property could be appropriated by the government, prohibiting seizures for private enterprise, job creation, tax revenue generation or economic development. This would restrict eminent domain to being invoked only to take private land for public use. Specifically, it would update a 2007 law which allows private property to be taken only when the public interest dominates the private gain. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli framed his support of the measure by saying local governments “despise the notion of individual rights that may ever impede anything they want to do.” The Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties have both gone on record opposint the measure. According to a statement from the Virginia Municipal League, “The amendment is unnecessary and will harm Virginia’s citizens by severely limiting the ability of local governments and the state to carry out projects that help improve life for the commonwealth’s population.” Spotsylvania County released a statement opposing the measure, wanting to preserve eminent domain for schools, parks and roads, and to ensure the amounts that localities pay private landowners for taken property are “reasonable and do not include speculative measures of damages.” This measure appears to be part of a larger nationwide conservative concern with property rights.
Question 2 appears to be a fairly straightforward bit of housekeeping, unless there are local issues that are not obvious from a distance. It allows the legislature to delay the start of its veto session by up to one week. The stated intention of the measure is to prevent the veto session from starting on a holiday. The official ballot text reads as follows: “Shall Section 6 of Article IV (Legislature) of the Constitution of Virginia concerning legislative sessions be amended to allow the General Assembly to delay by no more than one week the fixed starting date for the reconvened or “veto” session when the General Assembly meets after a session to consider the bills returned to it by the Governor with vetoes or amendments?”
There is an interesting ballot measure this year, part of America’s recurring discussion over whether elected representatives should have enforced term limits, or whether the voters should make the decision as to each representative’s term at the ballot box. This one, however, has the interesting twist that it would remove an existing limit, rather than impose one. The West Virginia County Sheriff Term Limit Amendment proposes ending term limits for county sheriffs. Currently, sheriffs are limited to two consecutive terms.
- Maryland ballot question 7 protest
- Gerrymandering at its Worse: a Look at Maryland
- Executives: It’s Md. vs. W.Va. in casino referendum
About dcpetterson (186 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson