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McDonough Seeks More Time for Petition Drives

Push to make referendum drives less-restrictive comes as the ACLU questions online signatures of immigration tuition foes' petition effort.

Del. Pat McDonough, who is among the leaders of a growing effort to reverse a law that allows in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, is now working to give Marylanders additional time and fewer restrictions to gather signatures for petitions.

The Middle River Republican announced plans Friday in Essex to pre-file a bill for the 2012 General Assembly session that, if passed, would give petitioners 90 days, instead of 60 to collect the approximately 58,000 signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot. In addition, McDonough also wants to eliminate the requirement that one-third of the signatures must be verified within 30 days.

“We have one of the most restrictive policies in the nation when it comes to petitions and referendums,” McDonough said. “When it comes to impacting public policy, the people of Maryland have no voice.”

Ironically, McDonough’s announcement comes as the Board of Elections validated way more signatures that were needed to keep his referendum effort to defeat the in-state tuition bill for illegal immigrants alive.

McDonough told Patch Friday that his group has about 44,000 valid signatures, despite only needing 18,000 approved by the end of May. He said he expects to easily collect enough signatures by the end of June to have the issue placed before voters in the November 2012 election. The bill will take effect July 1 if enough signatures aren’t validated in time.

However, McDonough said, his group is succeeding in spite of the law due to the emotions generated from the controversial law. Among those supporting the petition is five of the seven members of the Baltimore County Council, .

McDonough credits the passion of his volunteers across the state, bi-partisan support for the drive and the ability of people to sign the petition online via mdpetitions.com as reasons why they have succeeded so far.

“This petition drive is an anomaly,” McDonough said. “This is a hot-button issue and the passion is so strong that you don’t need to motivate people. But, there will be other issues coming up that may require a petition drive if passed in Annapolis, including gay marriage and the abolition of the death penalty.

"With Maryland basically being a one-party state, people outside of those in the highest position of leadership have little to no voice in the process, even if philosophically, they are in the majority.”

McDonough’s announcement also comes at the same time that the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is calling into question the legality of validating petition signatures gathered online.

Concerned that the online petition system being used to gather signatures to petition the Maryland DREAM Act to referendum is illegal and vulnerable to fraud, the ACLU has written to the State Board of Elections to ask that the system’s legality be scrutinized.

The May 31 letter was sent to raise threshold legal questions at the outset of validation and verification – after an ACLU tester found that the systems pre-fills information for voters based on very basic personal data, and that one person could easily generate petitions for multiple voters and submit them to the board for validation.

“Online systems for signature gathering in support of a petition drive are new to Maryland, and raise serious questions about whether election officials can meaningfully scrutinize the authenticity of signatures, verify each signer’s intent, and investigate possible acts of fraud,” said Deborah Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland in a statement. “Unfortunately, the ACLU in the past discovered widespread fraud in a different referendum petition drive, so we know from experience how important it is for the state’s laws to be strictly followed.”

According to a news release from the ACLU, the online petition system at mdpetitions.com could be highly susceptible to fraud. Any user who knows the name, zip code, and birth date of an individual can easily generate a petition for that person, forge the individual’s signature, and fraudulently verify the petition on the individual’s behalf, the release continues. 

“As a principle, the ACLU believes it is wrong to put people's rights up for a popular vote, and it is even more troubling to do so when the system being used to collect petition signatures is one so easily sabotaged by fraud,” said David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement."

Robert Armstrong June 13, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Nobody is dying overseas for our right to vote. That's ridiculous. This whole petition drive has smelled from the very beginning. Now the ACLU is on the case. Watch and see all the fraud they turn up.
James June 13, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Look, in my opinion the delegates had their chance to speak on this issue. They spoke and as a body made their decision. A referrendum is not simply a "do-over" for the delegates. Its a chance for the people faced with the belief that that delegates have failed to represent them to make their opinion heard. This SHOULD NOT be a place for delegates to be heard again in an effort to win favor with their voters. I believe that Del. McDonough and all other delegates involved in trying to influence the people on this matter have it bass ackwards. They are supposed to be listening to the people now not trying to tell them what to do. In short tell your delegates, "you had your chance to speak out on this, now listen to us."
Buzz Beeler June 14, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Speaking of fraud, I'm still waiting for your reply on your military record, the one you claimed to have spent a good portion of your life in. I'm still waiting to see you write in those five languages you claim to speak. You are a coward to make such a claim about a military record and fail to back up those loud-mouth claims. As far as Google is concerned you do not exist. Now what were you saying about FRAUD?
carroll reid jr. June 15, 2011 at 05:05 AM
the problem is that this is a one party state where our delegates dont always listen to the people that elect them. but some how they keep getting elected...
Kevin O'Brien June 19, 2011 at 03:22 PM
This petition drive is so typical of Republican "suck up, kick down" politics. If they really wanted to do something about illegal immigration, they would boycott businesses that hire illegal workers, and get behind a national ID card, to make it easier for employers who want to obey the law, and deny the "we can't tell who is legal" excuse to those who profit from cheap, easily exploited labor. But they don't. Instead, they go after the weak, the children of the poor, people who are trying to better themselves by getting an education. The real purpose of this is to fire up the Republican base* and thereby distract them from real threats to their economic security. [*You know who I mean when I refer to the Republican base. The "ditto heads" who buy overpriced gold coins sold on rightwing talk radio. They are an easily mislead group. They attract advertisers looking for docile followers who don't like to think for themselves. Dittohead is their very accurate self-description. ] Republican leaders have to give their followers something to get out their vote, as they slash taxes and do everything possible make it easier for businesses to move jobs and capital to Communist China. So, they give them a scapegoat: poor immigrant children trying get an education.

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