Cumberland Times-News

November 5, 2012

Politicians make push on ballot questions

Associated Press

— BALTIMORE — Elected officials on Monday urged Maryland voters to support ballot initiatives to expand gambling, allow same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants, while opponents planned to visit polling places statewide on Tuesday in hopes of persuading voters to reject them.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, appearing at a rally in Baltimore, used some new lyrics to a popular ode to West Virginia to try to convince voters to expand gambling. The variation of the song “Country Roads” has been used in ads aimed at garnering support for expansion, which is opposed by a gambling company that owns a casino in West Virginia just over the border.

“Maryland cash, bring it back, to the place where it belongs. Not West Virginia, don’t let ’em spin ya. Maryland cash, bring it back,” O’Malley said, noting the issue was about jobs and schools and keeping money in the state.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the West Virginia casino, has spent more than $42 million in advertising to defeat the gambling expansion, which calls for table games like blackjack and a casino near the nation’s capital. MGM Resorts International, which wants to build the casino in Prince George’s County, has spent about $41 million in support.

After the event, the governor was asked if the fact that key pieces of his legislative agenda have gone to referendum was a sign of public opposition. O’Malley said that with the exception of the gambling ballot question, which is required under law for expansion, the successful petition drives were a sign that the ease of collecting electronic signatures in the Internet age has “made it a lot easier for the forces of no, for the obstructionists to be able to throw these things on the ballot.”

Delegate Neil Parrott, the chairman of MDPetitions. com, said he believed response to the website used to help gather signatures was a sign that the Democratic governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature had gone too far in recent years for many voters. Parrott said he thought there would be close votes on Election Day.

“Having the right to be able to vote on these issues is critical,” Parrott, R-Washington, said in a telephone interview.

The governor also attended an event in Baltimore’s Federal Hill in support of same-sex marriage, and another was scheduled for later Monday at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Meanwhile, supporters of allowing certain illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition held events in Baltimore and Takoma Park. The students would have to had attended high school in Maryland for three years and paid state taxes during that time.

Voters also will be considering a ballot question on whether to approve or reject the state’s congressional redistricting map. Critics say it has been gerrymandered to benefit Democrats at the expense of fair representation, but supporters say changes were made to reflect demographic changes as required by the census every 10 years.