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Elections

Maryland to require legislators to live in their districts; state will rename its high court

Maryland voted Tuesday in favor of five statewide ballot questions, including an amendment to legalize adult-use cannabis and another to rename the state’s highest court the Maryland Supreme Court.

A supermajority vote, or three-fifths of the House of Delegates and Senate, was required to put each of these questions on the ballot, per to the Maryland Constitution.

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Question 1

Changes the names of Maryland’s appellate courts from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and from the Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland. Under the new law, judges will be justices of the Supreme Court of Maryland and the chief judge of the Court of Appeals will be the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland.

The change will align the bodies with equivalents in other states and help make state legal processes easier to understand.

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Question 2

Adds to the eligibility requirements to serve as a senator or delegate to the Maryland General Assembly by requiring a person to have maintained a primary place of abode in the district that the person has been chosen to represent. Under current law, a person must have resided in the district to which the person has been elected for at least six months immediately preceding the date of the person’s election or, if the district has been established for less than six months prior to the date of election, as long as the district has been established. The new law requires, beginning January 1, 2024, a person to have both resided in and maintained a primary place of abode in the district for the same time periods as under current law.

This measure would require Maryland state legislators to primarily reside in the districts they represent. Under current law, they must only have lived in the district for six months prior to the election.

Question 3

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Keep up to date with Maryland politics, elections and important decisions made by federal, state and local government officials.

Authorizes the General Assembly to enact legislation that limits the right to a jury trial in a civil proceeding to those proceedings in which the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000, excluding attorney’s fees if they are recoverable in the proceeding. Under current law, the amount in controversy must exceed $15,000 before a party to a proceeding may demand a jury trial. In cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed this threshold amount, a judge, rather than a jury, determines the verdict.

This question allows the General Assembly to legislate a higher threshold for a jury trial in a civil case — a controversy, most likely a lawsuit, involving more than $25,000, rather than the current $15,000. Currently, a person or group can request a jury trial if the money involved is more than $15,000. The change is aimed at being more economic with the state’s legal resources because convening a jury is a more labor-intensive process than assigning the case to a judge.

Question 4

Legalizes the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland.

In 2014, the state legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug. If this question passes, the legislature will work through the framework for the sale of legal cannabis during the next legislative session.

Question 5

Repeals county elections of Howard County orphans’ court judges and requires the Howard County Circuit Court judges to sit as the orphans’ court for Howard County. The current law provides for the voters of Howard County to elect three orphans’ court judges. Under the amended law, a party could no longer appeal a final judgment of the Howard County Orphans Court to the Howard County Circuit Court and would instead take an appeal directly to the Court of Special Appeals.

If passed, this question would eliminate Howard County orphans’ court judges as their own entity and instead have the county’s circuit court judges sit as orphans’ court when necessary. Although the issue only involves Howard County, state code requires changes to the Maryland Constitution like this to go through the state’s ballot question process. Every Maryland voter will be eligible to vote on it.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.


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