Sunday, October 28, 2012

Referendum ballot question wording: what’s misleading and what’s omitted

By Ann Miller
Founder, BaltoCoPetitions.com


This general election, three statewide ballot questions appear on the ballot as a result of citizen petitions to referendum.  Once the petitions are certified by the Maryland Board of Elections, the Secretary of State prepares and certifies the ballot question wording for incorporation on the general election ballot.

The wording for the three referendum ballot questions, which are Questions 4, 5, and 6, is a critical piece of the process, as it influences voters at the polls and reaches every single person who casts a vote on that question.

Below are the actual ballot questions, with my analysis of the wording following.  The actual wording plus the bill language can be viewed on the Maryland Board of Elections website under the section entitled “Referendums by Petition”, click here.

Question 4
Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates
Establishes that individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges in Maryland, provided the student meets certain conditions relating to attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school, filing of income taxes, intent to apply for permanent residency, and registration with the selective service system (if required); makes such students eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year public college or university if the student has first completed 60 credit hours or graduated from a community college in Maryland; provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment; and extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates.

My analysis of Question 4 wording

“Filing of income taxes”:  This is a misleading use of wording.  One cannot file income taxes.  We file income tax RETURNS.  The difference is a critical point, because the current wording suggests the payment of taxes, whereas the actual language of the law only requires tax returns.  In fact, when our legislators were considering this bill, the original wording included the requirement for actual tax money payment, but that language was struck from the bill before passage and replaced with the current language.  That means our legislators passed this bill with full knowledge that it does not require the actual payment of any taxes whatsoever.  Further, income tax returns can be filed in order to received tax credits.  And finally, the language of the law states that either the student or his parents must file the tax returns for three years.  For example, an 18 year old student who has never filed tax returns but wants to qualify for this tax-funded benefit can back-file three years worth of tax returns from the time he was aged 15-17, pay no taxes, and qualify for this benefit.

“Intent to apply for permanent residency”:  What is omitted from this is the fact that the student must only submit an affidavit (or promise) with the school, not any governmental authority.  That means it gets forgotten in an admissions office file and is not enforceable.

“Provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment”:  There are several points omitted from this statement.  The inclusion of this phrase in the bill language was intended to ensure the voters that legal Maryland citizens will not be bumped from admission by an illegal alien.  Unfortunately, this may not be the case.  First, since colleges can’t bump in-state students to make room for the increased demand by illegal aliens, then the Dreamer applicants will be competing for limited spots with legal American citizens from out of state.  Second, colleges have the ability to increase or decrease the percentage of their student body that is from out-of-state.  In order to allow more Dreamer students in, they could increase the percentage of out-of-staters allowed up to a max of 30%.  That essentially would bump in-state students in favor of Dreamers.

Question 5
Congressional Districting Plan
Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.

My analysis of Question 5 wording

The issue with this wording is all about what’s not being said.  The opponents of the new congressional district maps are opposed because of the gerrymandering, or abusing the process for political benefit at the expense of the fair representation of the people.  It is the outcome of the maps that are in question, not simply the process of drawing them.

Question 6
Civil Marriage Protection Act
Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

My analysis of Question 6 wording

“Protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”:  While there are a number of protections built into the legislation, one important exception was made to those protections which impacts them all.  If a religious institution receives government grants or monies, as many do in order to exist, they are not protected.  This means the government is pulling funding from organizations that do not comply with promoting gay marriage, which is a clear and severe violation of Freedom of Religion.

To view original article on Examiner.com, plus comments, click here.

1 comment:

Kevin Waterman said...

Ann,

I don't really see how government refusing to fund those groups and organizations that oppose same-sex marriage constitutes a violation of freedom of religion.

The government doesn't have any affirmative obligation to spend taxpayer dollars on religions or religious institutions. At most it simply is obliged to treat them all equally and having a universally applied standard strikes me as meeting that standard.

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