The Western Maryland Republican leading the effort to repeal the state's new Congressional map says he believes the signatures they collected will withstand Board of Elections.
"This was a very thorough validation process," said Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, speaking at an Annapolis news conference. To make his point, the delegate held up a passel of signed petitions that he opted not to submit due to errors.
Republicans have so far turned in 65,722 signatures in two batches - about 10,000 more than needed to put the question to voters on the November ballot. The first batch of 29,455 has been scrubbed by the state, and about 2,692 of those were knocked out. The state has twenty days to sort through the remaining 36,267 signatures filed Saturday night.
At the news conference this morning, map opponents held up posters showing the state's eight Congressional districts, many of which are oddly shaped. The caption on the sign read: "Does this make any sense to you?" They argue that the state's ruling Democrats carved up conservative counties to retain political dominance in Maryland.
It had been two decades since any state law qualified for the ballot when Parrott, a freshman delegate, spearheaded an effort last year to put a new law allowing in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants on the ballot. Since then, opponents to a new same-sex marriage law also submitted enough signatures to qualify for referendum.
Del. Steve Schuh, an Anne Arundel County Republican, noted the broader significance of the GOP petition drive. "This is a major change in our Democracy in Maryland," Schuh said. "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 signatures earlier last week, but made a last ditch effort to find people willing to sign. Del. Ron George, an Annapolis jeweler, said he sent out robo-calls asking people to come to his store and sign the petition.
George said the 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. "You don't mess with the Democratic process."