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March 11, 2013

Will Maryland voters even get a chance to reconsider repeal of state's death penalty?

One reason I have been following closely the march in Maryland toward repeal of the state's death penalty has been because Maryland has a well-established process for voter referendum as a means to create a populist veto of any law passed by the state's legislature.  If Maryland's legislature repeals its death penalty and then there is a subsequent referendum on that repeal, the state-wide campaign for such ballot initiative would likely be quite interesting and the the vote outcome would likely be quite uncertain.  But this new local article, headlined "Death penalty repeal may not be petitioned onto ballot," suggests that Maryland voters might not even get a chance to vote in a referendum after death penalty repeal in the state. Here is why:

Del. Neil C. Parrott, chairman of petition website MDPetitions.com, said petitioning Gov. Martin O’Malley’s death penalty repeal to the 2014 general election ballot isn’t a foregone conclusion. That’s even though some opponents of the repeal, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, have said they think a referendum vote likely.

But “there’s no talk about” such a petition drive at the grass-roots, Parrott said. “It’s probably not going to be petitioned.” Parrott indicated he’s more interested in leading a petition drive against House Bill 493, the Referendum Integrity Act — a measure he believes could choke off future referendums if it passes.

The Washington County Republican led petition drives that placed on the 2012 ballot three measures passed by the General Assembly: legalizing same-sex marriage, in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants, and the state’s congressional redistricting plan. All three challenges failed.

Parrott said a drive to overturn the death penalty repeal would involve a long, difficult campaign all the way up to the 2014 election. And such efforts take money — something MDPetitions.com is “not very flush with,” Parrott said. “There’s going to be serious consideration whether we do one or not, because it is so difficult,” he said....

Parrott’s MDPetitions.com website makes it easier for people to generate signatures that match the way their names are rendered on the state’s voter rolls, so that they can’t be invalidated by elections officials. Before the website, only one referendum to overturn a state law made it onto the ballot in 20 years, a 1992 attempt to overturn Maryland’s abortion law. That attempt failed....

Parrott said O’Malley has introduced several “radical” measures — one of which, he said, is the death penalty repeal, Senate Bill 276. That bill has passed in the Senate. On Friday, the bill made it through a House committee. It is expected to pass in the full chamber. “Honestly, I hope (death penalty repeal) stops in the House,” Parrott said. “At this point, we’re just looking to see what happens.”

O’Malley said that even if the death penalty repeal goes to referendum, the voters will ultimately uphold it. “The people of our state want us to do the things that work and that actually reduce crime,” he said.

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March 11, 2013 at 09:14 PM | Permalink


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|| D. Berman: "and the vote outcome would likely be quite uncertain".
|| M. O’Malley: even if the death penalty repeal goes to referendum, the voters will ultimately uphold it.

Ever the prognosticator, I beg to differ.
Is it not because the people of Maryland's consistent support for capital
punishment makes their vote palpably presumable, that progressive abolitionists
are seeking to discourage the effort?

***** *****
""Which view is closer to your own, that Maryland law should allow for the death penalty
or should the death penalty be abolished & replaced with life in prison with no chance of parole?" {Wapo, 2/26/13}
allow the death penalty = 60%
LWOP/abolish the death =36%

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 12, 2013 9:51:53 AM

Adamakis --

Two interesting points about the poll. First, abbies are fond of saying that, when the alternative of LWOP is offered in the pollster's question, the DP and LWOP get about equal support. But that is not the case here; the DP still swamps LWOP.

Second, the poll puts the lie to Gov. O'Malley's prediction. Still, if he's so confident, he should be happy to put the matter to a public vote. Oddly, I haven't heard him support any such thing.

O'Malley is merely the latest in a string of Maryland politicians (see Spiro Agnew, Marvin Mandel) who knows he can get in from a backroom deal what he can't get when the people speak directly.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 12, 2013 10:19:59 AM

B. Otis: La vrai vérité!

From the peoples of Socrates, Einstein, and Ussher, Maryland (s)elects Agnew, Mandel, and O'Malley?

Mη γενοιτο [Me genoito] = Let it not be!

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 12, 2013 11:09:37 AM

While you may consider the death penalty to be a policy so important to maintain, the voters of Maryland have demonstrated, by voting for the many who are prepared to vote for abolition, that it is actually not so high priority for them. Few people are actually touched by the issue in their lives, but when put on the spot by a questionnaire, will answer by reflex and habit .... not rationalized thought. In politics and the legislature in general, this is a norm which the average person is happy to assign informed responsibility to their elected representatives. This is where politicians and legislators earn their privilege .. and exercise judgment and leadership, not in always pursuing the popular, but sometimes taking the lead in making hard but right decisions. Gov O'Malley and his colleagues from both Democratic and Republican wings are exercising that judgment and leadership from a recognition and acceptance of truth and reality, that the death penalty has no rightful place in Maryland in the 21st Century.

Posted by: peter | Mar 13, 2013 7:27:00 AM

: : peter : : said

-0- "[DP] actually not so high priority for them" || you may be right, peter

-0- "but when put on the spot by a questionnaire, will answer by reflex and habit" || come now…
according to :: peter :: "Few people are actually touched by the issue in their lives",
so should their consistent polling responses not be accurately reflective of their
Are not such testees considered to be unbiased, sober, ideal polling subjects?

-0- "Gov O'Malley and his colleagues…[are exercising] leadership from a recognition & acceptance of truth & reality,
that the death penalty has no rightful place in Maryland in the 21st Century." || = pontifical, dubious nonsense

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 13, 2013 9:46:54 AM

peter --

Do you think the people of Maryland should be denied a direct yes-or-no vote on the DP?

If yes, do you think the people of Washington and Colorado should have been denied a direct yes-or-no vote on legalizing recreational pot?

If yes, do you think the people of California should have been denied a direct yes-or-no vote on legalizing "medical" pot?

I just want to check here to see if participatory democracy only turns into a bad idea when liberals think they're going to lose.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 13, 2013 2:29:46 PM

I can only speak for myself, not for "liberals" in general, as you so quaintly describe anyone who disagrees with you. I am not in favor of "government" by referendum. I expect politicians who I may vote for during elections, to have and to exercise intelligence and to fairly and reasonably acquit themselves in the decision-making process of government, in a manner broadly consistent with the platform they have presented during election. I say broadly, because everyone should recognize that circumstances may alter, or that flexibility may be required in order for effective government to be practiced, or that personal beliefs on a particular matter may be contrary to the platform of the party for which they stood.

Posted by: peter | Mar 13, 2013 5:22:20 PM

peter --

1. "I can only speak for myself, not for "liberals" in general, as you so quaintly describe anyone who disagrees with you."

Actually, I did not and have not described as 'liberal' anyone who disagrees with me -- you're just making that up. I disagree all the time with all stripes of conservatives on one issue or another, e.g., "Right on Crime" fruitcakes who underplay the economic and moral costs of crime; "growth conservatives" who are willing to indulge budget deficits as stimulatory; "fiscal hawk conservatives" who would cut without due regard for military readiness in a dangerous world; "libertarian conservatives" who see nothing wrong with legalizing heroin, meth and other forms of poison, etc.

Nonetheless, if you want to go your breezy way and claim that I brand as "liberal" everyone who disagrees with me, have at it. At least it's better than sticking up for Timmy McVeigh and your other poor, abused death penalty "victims."

2. Niether you nor your liberal (and libertarian) pals uttered a single word in opposition to the Colorado and Washington referendums, although there have been hundreds of comments about them, the great majority filled with gushing praise.

Q: So where were your doubts about participatory democracy then?

A: Non-existent. They only seem to find a voice in you when it looks like Maryland voters might get a chance to correct their many paid-off politicians.

My goodness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 13, 2013 11:24:14 PM

Back to your usual tricks. You throw labels around like confetti.
If I have not commented on the Colorado and Washington referenda, it is because the issues have little connection with the death penalty which is, as you know, my primary focus on this blog. I would not have commented on referenda at all had you not raised the question. As you have, I am happy to say I have no faith or respect for a political class that is so devoid of original, progressive ideas for the advancement of social well-being, that it abdicates its responsibilities for government by relying on popular vote other than at elections. There is an assumption of intelligence and a measure of expertise available in the pool of candidates at elections. If that is in fact missing, and we are to rely on referenda for governance, then it would save an awful lot of time and money if we just selected a local postman to office. "Participatory democracy" as you might define it, has an important role in local management of resources and policy, where the decisions directly affect those involved, but at the macro level of politics that affect the greater society of State, so far as I am concerned, participatory democracy is best expressed through public debate of which this blog is but one small example. Our representatives are quite able to see and evaluate the worth of popular public opinion through the collective voices of representative organizations, petitions, and the like. If we do not like their evaluation, we are able to vote them out of office. Finally, I do not class "opinion polls" as a comparable alternative to reasoned debate.

Posted by: peter | Mar 14, 2013 6:07:34 AM

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