ANNAPOLIS — Maryland could become the first state in the nation to decide by popular vote to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. Voters were also making up their minds on same-sex marriage, expanded gambling and whether the new congressional map needs redrawn.
The tuition measure, signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley last year, was the first to be successfully petitioned to this year’s ballot. It’s been on hold pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. Illegal immigrants would be allowed to pay in-state tuition, provided they have attended a state high school for three years and can show they have filed state income tax returns during that time.
About a dozen other states have similar laws, but Maryland’s could be the first to be approved by voters.
“I’m willing to help pay a higher tax rate if it means that it’s going to make this country a better place ultimately, and a lot of us come from families from immigrants,” said Cheryl Klam, a 50-year-old Democrat who voted for the ballot question in Annapolis. “I mean, all of us do, so somebody gave us a start someplace and helped us.”
John Raffensparger Jr., a 46-year-old Republican, said he voted against it in Parkville in Baltimore County.
“I don’t believe illegal immigrants should be here in the first place,” Raffensparger said.
Maryland also could potentially become the first state where voters determine whether to allow same-sex marriage, though people in Maine and Washington state also are deciding on the issue. Minnesota is considering a constitutional ban.
Besides those two questions, citizens also are choosing whether to expand gambling to legalize table games like blackjack and a casino near the nation’s capital.
They will be making the call after more than $90 million has been spent by opponents and supporters, an unprecedented amount in Maryland for a single campaign. The new casino in Prince George’s County could not open until 2016, while table games could begin at the state’s three existing casinos early next year.
Sayre Matthew, a 37-year-old Democrat, said she voted against more gambling, but not because she’s opposed to casinos.
“I feel like we could get a much better deal,” Matthew said in College Park, explaining that the dollars from gambling don’t mean more money for education as has been advertised.
Retired medical assistant Carolyn Barton, a registered Democrat, said she enthusiastically supported gambling expansion.
“I think they need it here,” Barton said after voting in Hagerstown. “I really think we’ll get money for school.”
Maryland voters also are deciding whether to send state lawmakers back to the drawing board to create a new congressional redistricting map for the next 10 years. Opponents contend the map has been gerrymandered to oust 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, while supporters say the map reflects demographic changes.
Ellen Kaplan, a 58-year-old Wheaton resident, said she was more interested in other issues and candidates on the ballot.
“I just didn’t know about it,” Kaplan said.
People who voted for the map tended to be Democrats in support of the map drawn by Democrats who control the Maryland General Assembly.
“I’m not an objective Democrat,” said Trisha Miller with a laugh after voting in Annapolis.
Some Democrats, however, voted against it, saying they thought politics played too much of a role.
“It always makes me suspicious when people are trying to shift things around like that,” Klam said.
While the gambling question is the automatic result of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly during an August special session, this year’s longer-than-usual ballot in Maryland is largely due to petition drives led by Maryland Republicans.