By Len Lazarick
Opponents of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants submitted over 40,000 signatures on petitions to put the measure on the November 2012 ballot, more than twice what they needed for Tuesday’s first deadline.
They needed to have at least 18,579 by Tuesday and Washington County Republican Del. Neil Parrott said, “We know that some of them are going to be thrown out.”
The more than 4,000 sheets of petitions – with at most 10 names per page — will now be reviewed at the 24 county election boards around the state. The boards have until June 20 to finish the process, according to Donna Duncan, head of the election management division at the state Board of Elections.
Using a statewide electronic database, local election workers will check the names addresses, birth dates and signatures on the petitions. Duncan said the state will post a running tally of the valid signatures on the election board website beginning this Friday. “It will get updated every work day,” Duncan said.
The opponents of the measure must collect another 37,157 valid signatures by June 30 to stop implementation of the new law and put it on the ballot in 2012.
Statewide referendums on laws the General Assembly have passed are rare, with only two happening in the last 25 years. The last successful attempts to overturn a new law were in 1972 and 1974. Voters then rejected state aid and scholarships for non-public school students.
Both supporters and opponents of granting resident tuition to recent Maryland high school graduates who are not here legally say it is a question of fairness.
Supporters of the law, such as Gov. Martin O’Malley, said it is unfair to punish successful students who are in the state through no fault of their own because of a broken immigration system.
Parrott and opponents of the law say it will cost taxpayers at a time when the state continues to run structural deficits, and will deprive American citizens of slots at community colleges and four-year schools. “We’re going to enforce the immigration laws,” Parrott said.
“We all fully support legal immigration in our state,” said Del. Steve Schuh. He and the other two Republican delegates representing the Pasadena area of Anne Arundel County have been going door-to-door collecting signatures.
Del. Nic Kipke, the Anne Arundel coordinator, said the county has “turned in the most signatures,” perhaps as many as 10,000.
“This effort has largely been driven by technology,” Schuh said.
Parrot set up a website, MdPetititions.com, where voters can submit their names using the state voter registration databases, and print out a petition to sign.
“It cost less than $5,000,” Parrott said. “This is a grass roots effort. There’s not a national organization involved.”
Del. Pat McDonough of Middle River said, “There’s going to be a lawsuit regardless of the success of the petition drive.”