Petition Drive Reveals Ugly Side of Md. Politics

Political Commentary by Ron Miller

Ron MillerAs you read this, thousands of petitions with the signatures of everyday Marylanders are being gathered and presented to the state Board of Elections for validation, signaling the end of an historic petition drive which, if successful, will bring a state law to referendum for the first time in 20 years.

The grass-roots campaign to put to a popular vote the law granting in-state tuition at Maryland colleges and universities to the children of illegal aliens has been an enormous success.
It has exposed, however, the ugliness of the special interests in the state that largely shape the agenda in Annapolis, and the great distance between our elected officials and the average Marylander.

The state board of elections demonstrated its disdain for the people when, after the initial submission of signatures, they decided to slam the doors shut and not allow public observation of the validation process.

I've been through five elections in Calvert County since we moved here, and in each one, representatives from both political parties have been allowed, even encouraged, to observe the vote-counting process on election night. Absolutely zero episodes have been reported, and this simple act of transparency has assured partisans and the voting public of the integrity of the process.

Their insistence on closing the doors to the public while signatures were validated immediately led to questions about what they were trying to hide.

When I was on active duty as a military officer, we were taught to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in our behavior. Married male members of the clergy are instructed not to be seen in public with a woman who isn't their wife without another man present, not because they were engaged in any sordid activity, but in order to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing.

Clearly, this tidbit of wisdom is lost on politicians and bureaucrats, who lock doors and conduct the public's business in secret, immediately creating an aura of suspicion regardless of whether or not they're warranted.

As the petition drive progressed, and the number of validated signatures surpassed by an overwhelming margin the minimum required by the first deadline, pro-illegal alien special interests, primarily Casa de Maryland, became alarmed. They sent their people to public places where petitions were being signed so they could glare and yell insults at people, thrust flyers into unwilling hands, and even stand in the way, to prevent them from signing.

Given that their actions violated both the U.S. and Maryland constitutions, which protect the petition process, the petition drive volunteers, in my opinion, should have called the local authorities on these nuisances, but they handled themselves with great grace.

By contrast, many petition volunteers were shooed away from some public places by the police after someone called them.

This weekend, nerves were frayed as the state board of elections considered, then rejected, the idea of handing over validated petitions to Casa de Maryland so they could copy them. There were so many violations of protocol in that idea—the chain of custody and conflict of interest, to name two—that it was eventually dropped, helped along by hundreds of irate voters who contacted the state board of elections to express their displeasure.

Both the petition group and Casa de Maryland requested and were granted disk copies of the petition information. This raised questions about why the names and addresses of petition signatories were being handed over to Casa de Maryland days before the petition drive was to finish. This knowledge could have had a chilling effect on efforts to gather additional signatures.

Moreover, petition signers now fear what Casa de Maryland plans to do with their contact information, remembering the hostility of the homosexual lobby in California toward supporters of Proposition 8 whose names and addresses were revealed to them. An attorney with the organization says we have nothing to fear, so what exactly do they plan to do with that information?

The mistrust of the state government grew even greater as a result of this episode. The people believe the government is supposed to protect their information, perhaps by redacting addresses before releasing them to a requestor, and potentially exposing them to possible harm.

What we have in this state, and have had for decades, is a one-party government beholden to a small group of special interests, and they take care of each other, while the everyday Marylander is dismissed until they need their votes on Election Day. Even then, they confine their attention to the DC suburbs and Baltimore, and that is sufficient to keep them in power.

These top down institutions don't know how to respond to a bottom-up movement of passionate participants in the political process. The pro-illegal alien groups are long-standing, well-organized and funded in part by the generosity of your state government - and your tax dollars.

The petition drive, on the other hand, started with a group of concerned citizens who enlisted the support of key legislators, and it took off from there. They were neither funded nor supported by outside organizations, and only recently, with their success, have national organizations offered to help. The group cuts across racial, gender, class and political distinctions, uniting people across the state on a scale that is unprecedented.

Now that the signatures are in, the validation will take place, and the side that comes out on the losing end will surely contest the state board of elections' findings.

The fight is just beginning, and it's going to get ugly. Unfortunately, vandalism, violence and assault seem to be more common forms of political expression these days, as if we were still in the 1960s.

Some of the behavior exhibited to date, and which is sure to continue, is more reminiscent of a Third World country than the world's greatest constitutional republic. Behold the true face of your leaders and the groups to whom they pander.


State Election Board Provides Petition Signature Database to Casa de Maryland, June 28, 2011

Ron Miller of Huntingtown, Maryland is a conservative writer and commentator, and author of SELLOUT: Musings From Uncle Tom’s Porch. He is the president of Regular Folks United, which promotes and defends individual liberty, and president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of Maryland, the state chapter of the nation’s preeminent organization of Christian black Republicans. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for numerous online sites and print publications, and his own website, Join him on Facebook andTwitter.

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