Maryland’s Constitution provides recourse, the referendum, to those who believe bad laws are on the books or new laws are necessary. The general idea is, let’s put it to a vote.

The process for getting a referendum question on the statewide ballot begins with gathering a certain number of signatures on a petition. Enough signatures, and the ballot question becomes one of your choices on Election Day.

But what about those signatures Who gets to sign How are the signatures to be gathered Who can gather them How many are necessary Two bills before the General Assembly address these questions. If passed, they would put up possibly insurmountable obstacles to the referendum process.

Today, Citizens in Charge released a mailer sent to residents of Montgomery County, Maryland Delegate Eric Leudtke’s district informing citizens of the destructive impact Leudtke’s House Bill 493 will have on the state’s citizen referendum process.

“Delegate Leudtke’s bill, filled with new rules, regulations and signature disqualification penalties, will effectively stop the public’s ability to use the petition process in Maryland,” said Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge.

For Immediate Release:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Contact: Paul Jacob or Neal Hobson at (571) 327-0441

National Referendum Group Goes on Offense

With Targeted Mailer Against Leudtke’s Bill

(LAKE RIDGE, VA) – Citizens in Charge, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, has gone on offense and gone straight to the voters to protect referendum rights in Maryland with a targeted mailer against House Bill 493, naming its chief sponsor, Montgomery County Delegate Eric Leudtke.

The process by which Marylanders petition a new law to referendum would become more difficult under a bill under consideration in Annapolis.

Republicans view the electronic petition process as a way to level the playing field with the Democratic majority. Others argue, “What do you need elected officials for if tough issues are always put on a ballot?”

Essentially, the debate divides over whether it’s power to the people or a power grab by the Democrat-controlled State House.

The Referendum Integrity Act, a bill that’s been lambasted as voter suppression, contains numerous clauses that could potentially disqualify thousands of online petition signature pages before they are even signed.

But the chairman of the subcommittee in charge of HB493, Del. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, who is also a co-sponsor, says his goal in reforming petition legislation is not to make the process more difficult.

Cardin said his committee may consider a number of amendments this week that would address concerns of the bill’s opponents, as well as supporters of the legislation’s disclosure provisions.

Maryland’s Senate committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs voted 8-3 along Democratic Party lines on February 25 to kill a bill that oddly enough had nothing to do with Education, Health or Environmental Affairs. The bill did have to do with petitioners and protecting their identities.

Sponsored by Harford County Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs, SB 367 would have made the names, addresses and other pertinent information given by the signer of a petition private, once the petition had been submitted to the State Board of Elections.  The bill had been proposed to help prevent identity theft and fraud.

A Senate committee has killed a Republican-sponsored bill to shield
from public scrutiny the names and personal information of people who sign petitions to bring General Assembly-passed bills to referendum.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee
voted 8-3 along party lines Tuesday night to kill the bill sponsored by Sen. Nancy Jacobs of Harford County. Proponents of the bill said petitions should be exempt from public records laws to protect the privacy of voters.

Read more at the Baltimore Sun

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Citizens in Charge found itself on the front lines again yesterday as our president, Paul Jacob, traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, to testify in opposition to House Bill 493. The referendum or “People’s Veto” is already a tough proposition in the Old Line State.  Only once in the last 20 years – in 2012 – have citizen-initiated referendums made their way onto the ballot.

A bill changing the state’s petition process could make it harder for voters to bring controversial laws to referendum. The Referendum Integrity Act will be among numerous bills debated in Annapolis Thursday that could fundamentally change state election law.

Developers and shopping center owners contributed nearly $600,000 in the rejected bid to overturn Baltimore County Council votes on zoning issues, according to financial reports.

If successful, the referendum drive would have allowed county voters to decide the fate of dozens of properties, including the former Solo Cup site in Owings Mills, the Middle River Depot and Green Spring Station in Lutherville.

Read more from the Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s largest-circulation newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, came out against new legislation being proposed by Democrats to make it more difficult for citizens to refer legislative enactments to a vote of the people. The paper editorialized against one proposal to more than triple the number of signatures required from the current 3% of votes cast for governor in the previous election (55,736 voter signatures) to 5% of registered voters (184,726 signatures). Other proposed changes include outlawing paying circulators based on their productivity and reducing the amount of time for citizens to gather all these signatures on petitions.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas Miller say they are overwhelmed by voter referendums “every time someone doesn’t like one” of their decisions. These powerful politicians don’t make idle complaints; they’re threatening new legislation to make signature gathering for a referendum, or what is often called a “People’s Veto,” much more difficult.

The governor argues that the petition process has “probably been made a little too easy.”

About 15 Queen Anne’s County residents submitted about 2,300 signatures Friday afternoon to the Queen Anne’s County Board of Elections in an effort to send the county’s recently passed big box ordinance to a referendum in the 2012 General Election.

“We believe we are submitting 2,347 valid signatures against a requirement of about 1,600,” Jim Campbell said Friday in the lobby of the Board of Elections.

Queen Anne’s County residents who are attempting to have the “big box” ordinance put on the ballot next fall say they encountered problems at locations where they hoped to gather signatures over the last week. According to police, petitioning isn’t “appropriate activity” for public areas.

Opponents of a new Maryland law that would give undocumented immigrants breaks on in-state college tuition have no right to force a referendum, an immigrant rights group charged Monday in a lawsuit seeking to keep the issue off the 2012 ballot.

Casa of Maryland, a group often allied with the state’s Democratic leaders, alleges that state elections officials erred in letting opponents collect signatures to suspend the Maryland DREAM Act, the first state law in 20 years to be halted and sent to the ballot by a petition drive.