There are two contentious issues that will likely be on the ballot in November, and each one cuts Maryland voters in half. One is the Maryland Dream Act, and the other is gay marriage.
The Dream Act is a measure that would give in-state tuition rates at community colleges to illegal immigrant students (who have graduated from a public high school in that county and whose parents pay Maryland taxes). It passed in the state legislature, after which Republicans ran a signature drive that put the act up for referendum.
The success of that petition has was a morale-builder for Maryland’s minority party, who have vowed to use the same tactic against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, were the General Assembly to pass one (and, with the recent support of Gov. O’Malley, they just might).
The referendum strategy isn’t a slam dunk for Republicans, though it’s certainly got to make Democrats uneasy. A recent poll found among likely Maryland voters, forty-eight percent favor the Dream Act; forty-nine percent oppose. Gay marriage is similarly divisive: forty-nine percent favor; forty-seven percent oppose. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, that’s a dead-heat for both.
Expect Maryland to get extra tense around November. On the upside, it may bring more people to the polls than in years past.