17,892 Signatures Validated on Petitions Against Immigrant Tuition, Close to First Goal

By Len Lazarick, len@marylandreporter.com

(June 07, 2011)—Local elections boards have now counted 17,892 signatures on the petition drive to overturn the law granting resident tuition to illegal immigrants, putting them less than 700 signatures away from the first target.

Four counties have reported no results so far, including Anne Arundel County, which has the second highest number of signatures to review, 8,586, according to the posting on the State Board of Elections website Monday afternoon.

“It’s really encouraging to see that the counties and Baltimore City are jumping right on this,” said Del. Neil Parrott, the Washington County Republican leading the petition drive effort. He had no idea why Anne Arundel, Calvert, Prince George’s and Queen Anne’s counties showed no results, but “my guess is they haven’t reported it.”

Mary Wagner, head of the voter registration division at the state board, said she believed Anne Arundel and other counties were still “pre-processing” the petitions, and may have some numbers to report Tuesday. Under the law, the local boards have until June 20 to process the petitions and validate the returns.

The opponents of the new law had to have 18,577 valid signatures by May 31, and a total of 55,736 by June 30.

All told, the petitioners submitted 58,596 signatures last Tuesday evening, and the 85% validation rate “was about what we expected it to be,” Parrott said. The number of signatures thrown out by local boards is often much higher, but the process has been aided by the number of people using online petition forms that fill in their voter registration data and by close review of the petitions before they were submitted to the secretary of state.

Parrott said they expected to have 40,000 to 45,000 valid signatures after this round of counting, and “people are still going to the website.”

“Everybody knows this is a sprint now to the end of June,” Parrott said. The goal is to get far more valid signatures than required by state law – 3% of the number of registered voters who voted for governor in the last election.

“We know there are going to be lawsuits” by the groups that support the law, he said, “and they’re going to throw out as many signatures as they can.”

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