Voters throughout the state have begun receiving — and returning — ballots via mail and drop boxes, and will continue to do so through the Nov. 3 general election. To help you make up your minds, we offer the following summaries of The Sun’s editorial board endorsements.
Joe Biden for president
We endorse Democrat Joe Biden for president. The six-term senator from Delaware and two-term vice president alongside President Barack Obama has half a century’s worth of experience in public service and the right policies to move America forward: He is committed to building on the Affordable Care Act, better balancing the tax burden on corporations and the wealthy and supports reasonable pathways to citizenship for immigrants. He also has broad support from national security experts and many people from the opposite political party, including former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge; Sen. John McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain; former Ohio Gov. John Kasich; and even Donald Trump’s one-time communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. Mr. Biden has a deep respect for the democratic process and a demonstrated history of working across divides to bring people together — something the country desperately needs. We have lost face and place on the world stage. Americans are dying from a mishandled public health crisis and taking to the streets to demand racial justice. It’s time for a uniter. It’s time for President Joe Biden.
Brandon Scott for Baltimore mayor
In the primary election, we endorsed Democrat Brandon Scott to be the next mayor of Baltimore, and we repeat the recommendation for the general election. Currently serving as City Council president, Mr. Scott is a visionary leader who works tirelessly to improve the city and isn’t afraid to upset the apple cart for the greater good. He has solid support across demographics and a decade of experience in city government — long enough to develop a nuanced understanding of the city’s management flaws, but not so long as to be a part of the problem establishment. It’s clear that government reform and efficiency is a top priority for him; it can be seen in the charter amendments put forth by the City Council, which Baltimore voters are weighing now. There has been much talk this election season about whether the Democratic Party has served Baltimore well, and we’ve seen strong campaigns in some races from non-traditional party members, in particular: Green Party candidate Franca Muller Paz, who’s running for a City Council seat on a progressive platform, and independent candidate Bob Wallace, who’s running for mayor and backed by many in the business community (also running for mayor are Republican Shannon Wright and Working Class Party member David Harding). We’re encouraged to see city voters open to candidates from various parties when determining who offers the best future and hope it pushes current and future officeholders in all positions to stretch their boundaries and incorporate good ideas and practices, regardless of their source; no one should ever default to what they’ve always done in politics simply for the sake of consistency. We believe Brandon Scott is the best choice for Baltimore mayor not based on his party, but his policies.
For state Question 1
The proposed constitutional amendment gives state lawmakers additional authority to reallocate spending within the state budget. The General Assembly now has direct authority to reduce spending but not necessarily to shift resources to their preferred purpose. This would put the budgetary balance of power in line with the practice in 49 other states and adds this additional protection: it would grant the sitting governor the power of a line-item veto if he or she disagreed with a legislative spending priority. Legislators would then have an opportunity to override that veto with a three-fifths majority at a later date. The new arrangement would not go into effect until Fiscal 2024 so it would have no impact on the current governor. We recommend a vote for Question 1.
Against state Question 2
There’s little doubt that legalized sports betting will eventually make its way to Maryland as a revenue source for education, but voters should still vote against Question 2, which seeks to expand commercial gaming, because we don’t know what state regulation would look like, nor have any guarantee how the money will be used. Approving Question 2 simply authorizes the state to pass a law that would then work out the details on who would be eligible for a sports and events betting license, what form the gambling would take, and how it would be conducted and where. Will college sports be included? Will licenses be limited to casinos and race tracks? Who would control online betting and app access? We don’t know. And it matters. When the General Assembly passes a bill with a plan, they can bring a new referendum at the next statewide election in 2022.
Anne Arundel ballot questions
Question A amends the county charter to expand the powers of the county auditor giving him or her greater access to county government financial records. We recommend a vote for Question A.
Question B would grant the county council the authority to approve whom the county executive appoints as county attorney, police chief and fire chief. We recommend a vote for Question B.
Question C would remove the 1,500 hour limit that contractual hourly employees can work in any given calendar year. We recommend a vote for Question C.
Question D would allow the county council to increase the amount of contracts not subject to competitive bidding from the current $25,000 to as high as $100,000, which can be a burdensome and bureaucratic process on what are still small-dollar contracts. We recommend a vote for Question D.
Question E would extend the probationary period for newly-hired police officers, sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers so that the probationary year does not begin until after training is completed. We recommend a vote for Question E.
Question F would extend the time an acting department head can serve in that capacity. We recommend a vote for Question F.
Question G enshrines the Human Rights Commission in the county charter. We recommend a vote for Question G.
Baltimore City ballot questions
Questions A through D represent routine and reasonable borrowing for the city’s priorities: $12 million for affordable housing; $38 million for school construction and renovation; $38 million for economic and community development; and $72 million for public infrastructure, including roads, bridges and information technology. We recommend a vote for Questions A, B, C and D.
Question E would require the appointment every 10 years of a Charter Review Commission, tasked with making recommendations to the mayor and City Council for “necessary deletions, additions or revisions” after receiving public input. We recommend a vote for Question E.
Question F would allow the City Council to increase or add new spending to the city budget. Currently, it’s up to the mayor to initiate spending, though City Council members can reduce it. But we think the budget buck should stop with Baltimore’s mayor. We recommend a vote against Question F.
Question G reduces the number of votes needed by City Council members to override a mayoral veto, dropping it to two-thirds, or 10 of 15 members, from three-fourths, or 12 members. We recommend a vote for Question G. Note: the line-item veto reference in this question is a mistake and not part of the vote.
Question H expands the time that the City Council can vote to override a mayoral veto to include the next regularly scheduled council meeting, rather than requiring a special session to be convened during a certain period. We recommend a vote for Question H.
Question I would allow the City Council, by a three-fourths vote, to remove a council member, council president, comptroller or mayor “for incompetency, misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty or felony or misdemeanor in office.” Catherine Pugh’s mayoral tenure shows the necessity of this. We recommend a vote for Question I.
Question J requires the city auditor to give copies of agency audits to the agencies that were audited, which certainly seems appropriate, and it would give the position-holder the ability to issue subpoenas for information related to the audit, bringing transparency to the process and giving the auditor the power to do the job right. We recommend a vote for Question J.
Question K seeks to establish the position of “city administrator” in Baltimore, akin to the chief operating officer, where the mayor is the chief executive officer. There’s nothing stopping the next mayor from creating and filling just such a position; there’s no need to write it into the charter as a requirement. We recommend a vote against Question K.
Baltimore County ballot questions
Question A would amend the county charter to create a Citizens' Election Fund System offering candidates for county office the option of public financing for his or her campaign. The goal is to reduce the influence of deep-pocketed special interests on county government and would not go into effect until the 2026 election. We recommend a vote for Question A.
Questions B-J are routine bond authorizations providing $55 million in borrowing for public works projects, $15 million for refuse disposal, $46 million for public buildings, $35 million for parks and land preservation, $17.5 million for community colleges, $200 million for K-12 public school projects, $4 million for rural and farm land preservation, $2.5 million for community improvement projects and $20 million for waterway improvements. The total borrowing of $395 million is within the county’s affordability guidelines. We recommend a vote for Questions B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J.
Howard County ballot questions
Question A would amend the county charter to alter the dates for redistricting of Howard County Council seats to reflect a shift in the timing of the Maryland primary election from September to June. We recommend a vote for Question A.
Question B shortens the term that citizens would serve on various county advisory boards from five years to three years. We recommend a vote for Question B.
Question C would clarify and extend the restrictions on employment discrimination to ban it on the basis of disability, color, national origin, immigration status, age, occupation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, family status, or personal appearance. It maintains the county’s ban on hiring decisions on the basis of an applicant’s political affiliation, political opinions or associations or race. We recommend a vote for Question C.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.