The Western Maryland Republican leading a campaign to repeal the state's new congressional map said Monday that the signatures his group collected will withstand Board of Elections scrutiny, forcing a fall referendum on the issue.
"This was a very thorough validation process," Del. Neil Parrott of Washington County said at an Annapolis news conference. To make his point, he held up a signed petitions that he opted not to submit because errors were found in them.
Republicans say that when the state's ruling Democrats redrew the boundaries for congressional districts in October, they diluted conservative counties to retain political dominance. The new map gives Democrats a good chance of picking up a congressional seat in Western Maryland, which would leave only one Republican in the state's eight-member delegation.
Republicans say the state is left with contorted districts that should be redrawn. In making its case to the public, Parrott's group showed a picture of the new map, which includes difficult-to-describe shapes snaking through Central Maryland.
Parrott and other Republicans have turned in 65,722 signatures of Maryland voters who want to repeal the map — about 10,000 more than needed to put the question on the November ballot.
The first group of 29,455 signatures was checked by the state, and 2,692 of those were rejected. The state Board of Elections has 20 days to sort through the remaining 36,267 signatures filed Saturday night.
It had been two decades since any state law qualified for the ballot when Parrott, a freshman delegate, spearheaded last year's campaign targeting a new law allowing in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants. Since then, opponents of a new same-sex marriage law also have submitted signatures to qualify for referendum.
Should the congressional map petition be successful, and should the same-sex marriage petition qualify, as widely expected, there would be three General Assembly-approved laws on the November ballot.
"This is a major change in our democracy in Maryland," said Del. Steve Schuh, an Anne Arundel County Republican. "We have had an arrogant majority."
Maryland's Democratic Party issued a news release Monday morning calling the petition effort a "desperate partisan power grab."
Party executive director David Sloan hinted that the Democrats might sue if the signatures are certified, saying he will "weigh all options" and "ensure that every petition was completed and collected in line with Maryland laws and regulations."
Map opponents were short on signatures earlier last week but made a last-ditch push to find people willing to sign. As part of that effort, Del. Ron George, an Annapolis jeweler, said he sent out robocalls asking people to come to his store and sign the petition.
George said the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week upholding much of President Barack Obama's health care plan helped fuel the final effort.
"They felt like they had to get involved," George said.
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