Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Howard Referenda-ed

There is a good amount of analytical depth available when talking about questions put to referendum.  Is the electorate properly educated?  Is it a fair argument that the public benefits from profligate campaign spending on referenda to outline the issues at play?  Can "government by referendum" result in discordant policies that leave no one accountable for the outcome?

Those are mostly rhetorical, but we do know the results of the 2012 referred laws, which bear review.

First, Howard County really likes its lawyers.  While the statewide vote on requiring Orphan's Court Judge's to be lawyers was only 87.9% to 12.1%, Howard County approved the measure 88.2% to 11.8%.  Ok, so it really isn't much of a difference, but we leaned more heavily in favor than other jursdictions.

The same is true for crooked politicos.  Maryland voted 88% in favor.  Howard voted 89.2%.

Now is when it gets a bit more controversial.  Howard also favored the DREAM Act more than the statewide average, with 60.7% of the votes cast in favor of the measure.  The Maryland results were 58.3% in favor, a difference of almost 2.5 points.  As with the rest of these questions, it is hard to decipher whether these results have any basis in partisan leanings or whether the voters made decisions independent of such considerations.

If we were to test our results for discerning voters, I think Question 5 (redistricting) would be a reasonable option.  Maryland voters approved of the new map with 63.6% of the vote, while Howard approved at 64.4%.  Your opinion on this outcome depends on whether you think voters are paying attention to the question.  If you do, this is a partisan-heavy electorate happy to put its hand on the scale of congressional apportionment.  If you don't, the rest of the questions lack any relevance in terms of evaluating the electorate's preferences.

 The largest divergence between Howard and State-wide results was on Question 6, relating to marriage equality.  While Question 6 eked out a win on the State level with 51.9% of the vote, Howard voters spoke very clearly on the matter, approving the measure with 58.6%, a difference of almost 7 points.

Question 7, regarding expanded gambling, may end up being a medal of honor amongst political wonks proud of their home County's voters.  While State voters approved with 51.9% of the vote, Howard County, with its County Executive on TV telling us gambling was good for education, jobs, and Maryland, voted the measure down decisively 47.5% to 52.5%.  You have to wonder what kind of ribbing Ken took, and will take, regarding Howard's vote.  "I thought you said you could get Howard on board, Ken?"

I have to run off to a meeting and won't have time for links today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!