The ACLU has begun the process of challenging the online petition forms being used in Maryland to bring to referendum the controversial Dream Act, SB167. For back info, see my previous article here.
In its request to the Maryland Board of Elections, the ACLU charges that the online petitions are subject to an increased possibility of fraud due to two main factors. First, that the escalated accessibility of the petitions online as opposed to traditional petitioning makes verification more difficult. The hypocrisy: The ACLU pushes for looser verification and greater accessibility at the voting booth so as to avoid disenfranchisement, to the point that many consider our Maryland elections compromised. Are they not concerned that increased voter turnout at the booth may lead to more difficulty in preventing fraud?
Second, that the online form, after the user enters their name, date of birth, and zip code, automatically fills in the full address and inputted data from the Board of Elections database. The voter must then print out the form, sign and date it, and mail it in to the petitioners office. The ACLU is concerned that this makes it easier for someone to commit fraud since all they have to manually fill out is the signature and date.
However, just a mere three months ago, the ACLU took an exactly opposite position on online petitioning in Utah. In fact, the ACLU so strongly supported the online petitioning, which, unlike the petition in Maryland, allowed for electronically produced signatures, as to sue the State of Utah and bring it to the Utah Supreme Court.
The ACLU used the case of an out-of-state student who says she was disenfranchised from signing the petition because of the inability to sign online. They also reference soldiers and missionaries as other individuals who are subject to possible disenfranchisement.
In reference to the Utah ban on e-signatures, the ACLU stated, “...the legislature condemned Utah voters to using ancient technology when attempting to exercise their constitutional right to check the legislature’s power through initiatives and referenda.”
That’s a far cry in deep red Utah from how referenda petitioning is described by the ACLU in deep blue Maryland: “The referendum process allows a tiny minority of voters to challenge an act passed by the popularly elected legislature, thereby forestalling implementation of the challenged law, prolonging the harm the law was intended to remedy, and limiting the rights of the citizenry at large.”
In Utah, the ACLU feels this way: “...no valid reason exists to distinguish between e-signatures and handwritten signatures, so long as the intent of the signer is clear. Lt. Gov. Bell’s refusal to count any e-signatures violates Utah voters’ constitutional rights to use the initiative and referendum power, which is expressly reserved for the people in Article VI, Section 1 of the Utah Constitution.”
But in Maryland, the ACLU feels this way: “Policing fraud in this petition effort could become an overwhelming task for election officials.”
In Utah, the ACLU describes the petition effort like so: “Rarely, if ever, has this state seen citizens of nearly every political stripe and every political label united in such an outpouring of opposition to the legislature's work.”
In Maryland, petitioners are seen this way: “Referendum proponents seek to forestall the implementation of the law and to maintain the obstacles standing in the way of these students and their quintessential American dream.”
The ACLU sums up its fears and agenda in this statement, “...approval of petitions gathered through the sponsor’s automated system could not only determine the fate of the Dream Act petition effort, but could also dramatically change the petition process in Maryland going forward, opening many more state and local laws to petition challenges in the future.”
Indeed, the success of the petition effort against the Dream Act could be a game changer in Maryland. Go to www.mdpetitions.com to sign the petition.
Petition leaders in Baltimore County will be holding a Last Chance To Sign event on Saturday morning, June 25, at the Essex MVA and select post offices around the county. Come sign the petition and register your thoughts on our “Dream Act Opinion Cam” at the MVA from 8:30am to noon this weekend.
See original article on Examiner.com here.
DISCLOSURE: The writer is a county coordinator for the petition against the Dream Act.