Proponents of an attempt to overturn a law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants have done what some observers predicted to be near impossible three months ago.
Petition drive organizers, led by Republican lawmakers, have gathered more than 100,000 valid signatures on their petition for referendum, which is expected to be certified by the state Board of Elections today, potentially marking the first such effort to reach the ballot in Maryland in a generation.
Of the 45 states whose legislatures hold sessions in 2010, 27 of them have adjourned for the year, and 5 more will wrap up before the end of the month. Of the more than 80 bills dealing with the initiative and referendum process in various states, 51 of them would have reduced citizens’ initiative rights. Thanks to the work of activists in our coalitions, only 3 bills reducing citizen’s rights have passed and become law.
We’ve been telling you for some time about Maryland’s ridiculously strict requirements for a valid signature on a referendum petition. That requirement has taken out another effort by citizens to exercise their referendum rights in Howard County as 36% of their petition signatures were rejected.
Today, Citizens in Charge, a transpartisan national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented testimony urging Maryland legislators to restore the state’s referendum process by passing Senate Bill 240. Additionally, the group suggested amending the bill to give the Board of Elections latitude in verifying the identity of the registered voter.
A national, nonpartisan, voters-rights organization that promotes the referendum process has given Maryland a D on a recent report card. While Maryland laws do allow for ballot initiatives to be launched by citizens, the group found state laws about signature collection too “restrictive.”
A coalition has submitted nearly 24,000 signatures supporting a referendum on Anne Arundel County’s fall ballot that could overturn a decision allowing the state’s largest slots casino at a mall. Citizens Against Slots at the Mall submitted 23,702 signatures to the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections on Thursday afternoon in support of a referendum that would allow county voters to decide whether to permit slots at Arundel Mills, according to the groups coordinating the effort. Joseph A. Torre III, director of the county’s board of elections, did not respond to a request for comment.
This November, Marylanders will have a once-in-a-generation chance to shake up the political process. Yet few know about it, and even fewer are talking about it. Maryland’s Constitution stipulates that, every 20 years, the General Assembly must place on the general election ballot a binding referendum asking voters whether they want to convene a constitutional convention. If it passes, it could be the most politically momentous event in Maryland during 2010.
People around the country have been fighting against speed and red light cameras ever since they started dotting intersections and roadsides in the 1990’s. In many states this policy debate is moving to the ballot, where initiative and referendum rights are able to give voters a voice on an issue that is often decided by unelected law enforcement and highway officials.
The Citizens in Charge Foundation, a Virginia-based voter rights group, has awarded the Howard County Citizens for Open Government with its December John Lilburne Award. The award, presented each month to people or groups working to defend the right to petition, is named after a 17th-century English pamphleteer and political activist. Howard County Citizens for Open Government was recognized for its efforts to overturn a Board of Elections decision invalidating more than 80 percent of the signatures on a petition to block the construction of a grocery store at Turf Valley.
At Citizens in Charge Foundation we seek to keep the initiative & referendum process open and accessible for those citizens who have it, and expand the process to those citizens who do not. We believe that the initiative & referendum process is a right that every citizen should have, regardless of what issue or policy they intend to use it for.