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Voters to decide four ballot questions

October 28, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

HAGERSTOWN - Registered voters heading to the polls Nov. 7 for the Maryland general election will have four ballot questions before them in addition to their choices of candidates.

The questions concern the disposition of park lands, appeals by an in banc circuit court, civil jury trials and election law revisions, according to the Maryland League of Women Voters.

The election law provisions, presented as a referendum, remain from the early voting bill that partially was struck down in court.

"The bill was an absolute travesty from the outset," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, adding that he is opposed to the remaining portions of the bill.

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The remaining provisions require new precincts be established near colleges and universities; affects the voting powers of members of the state board of elections; and mandates that all polling places be equipped with computers.

Voters in the general election must vote for all or none of the remaining provisions.

Park lands

The disposition of park lands constitutional amendment ballot question originated several years ago when Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration took steps to dispose of preserved land in Southern Maryland, Shank said.

"The leadership of the General Assembly decided to make it tougher for any administration in the future to sell park land," said state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

The ballot question regarding civil jury trials asks for consideration on when the right to a jury is made available. Currently, if the plaintiff is seeking damages of more than $5,000, a trial by jury can be requested. The legislation on ballots would raise that to a $10,000 threshold.

"Obviously, the right to a jury trial has been historically important in an English legal system," said Kirk Downey, who is vice president of the Washington County Bar Association.

The legislation only would apply to civil cases with monetary damages, Downey said. These include torts and contract disputes, he said.

The intent of the legislation is that "with inflation, not every case requires a jury trial," Downey said.

Votes on the in banc circuit court question will determine whether appeals will be allowed to the Court of Special Appeals by panels of three Circuit Court judges.

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