« O'Malley announces deals with Vietnam businesses | Main | Van Hollen calls for Weiner's resignation »

June 10, 2011

In-state tuition petitioners call their process sound

The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the group behind the effort to repeal in-state tuition for illegal immigrants are sparring over the website used in the signature-gathering process -- in what could be a preview of court battles to come.

The ACLU said in a release today that concerns that the website,, is "illegal and vulnerable to fraud," led the group ask the State Board of Elections to "scrutinize" its legality. (Here's a link to the 20-page letter.)

"Online systems for signature gathering in support of a petition drive are new to Maryland, and raise serious questions about whether election officials can meaningfully scrutinize the authenticity of signatures, verify each signer’s intent, and investigate possible acts of fraud," Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement.

Del. Neil Parrott, creator of the website and a leader in the petition drive, fired back that the ACLU's allegations are "baseless" and said "Maryland citizens have a constitutional right to continue to sign the petition online."

The Washington County Republican also called the ACLU "hypocritical" for questioning the petition-signer validation process when the same group frequently calls for lesser voter identification standards at the polls. 

The back-and-forth comes as the Elections Board is in the process of validating the first round of signatures submitted by the group. About 18,000 were due at the end of May, and the board reported today that 44,000 have been deemed valid.

That's nearly 80 percent of the overall requirement; 55,736 must be submitted by the end of this month. If the petition is successful, Maryland voters would decide in November 2012 whether the state should give in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

The petition is a reaction to a law passed this year by the General Assembly. It would provide the discounted tuition to undocumented students who have attended at least three years of high school in Maryland and whose parents have filed tax returns. The law is due to take effect July 1, but a successful petition drive would stop it in its tracks. 

The ACLU's letter to the board, and its press release, could be a signal that the pro-tuition forces are gearing up for a court battle over the petition.

"The online petition system at could be highly susceptible to fraud," the ACLU said in a statement. "Any user who knows the name, zip code, and birth date of an individual can easily generate a petition for that person, forge the individual’s signature, and fraudulently verify the petition on the individual’s behalf."

"Maryland law prohibits the use of “pre-filled” petition forms such as those generated by the website, instead requiring that each signer of a petition personally provide the relevant information about himself or herself," the ACLU continues.

Parrott said he consulted with the Board of Elections as he developed the website and predicted it will withstand scrutiny. He says the ACLU's move "seems to be their opening salvo to a planned lawsuit."

"The law that they point to clearly states that the information on the form may be typed or handwritten," Parrott writes in a statement. "Nowhere in the law does it indicate that a signer cannot be aided by someone filling in the information for them."
Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:39 PM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Immigration


Please see the State Board of Elections FAQs on petition signature gathering, which says:

Can a petition sponsor pre-print signature pages with voters' names and addresses, so that if a voter agrees to sign the petition, the voters need only fill in his or her signature, date of birth, and date of signing?


If there were actual evidence of fraud at the voting booth, the ACLU would be concerned, because actual fraud disenfranchises people as well. But its been studied here in Md. and nationally, and it just doesn't exist.

However, in Maryland there are documented cases of fraud in referendum petition drives, including one the ACLU litigated in 2003 which found widespread fraud.

Sorry Meredith, but the website is not "pre-printing" the petition with the address and name, the petitioner has to enter that information in.

Maybe it's time for the ACLU to learn Web 101.

Let me get this straight. The ACLU is seeing fault with the process of gathering legal signatures required to put a measure on the ballot. But conversely, they oppose the process of requiring legal identification for those actually casting votes. Who is being disenfranchised now? Once again, the ACLU shows its true colors.

Next they'll want to count the "likes" on their facebook page as valid signatures.

That's actually taking it one step beyond pre-printing the petition form. You enter your name and DOB and they link to the MD Elections database to pull your address.

Meredith, the FRAUD of this travesty is in our elected jerks and our corrupt governor.
These miscreants are stealing our tax dollars to give to ILLEGAL ALIENS.
Time to unplug the ACLU.

MD is becoming more like California everyday. Time to get out of town and move away from the Progressives. Split the country in half. Let the Progressives do what they want. Let them violate the Constitutional rights of those who don't care. Let the rest of us live and uphold the Constitution. You have to wonder how many of these illegal aliens are also getting Pell Grants. Instead of deporting them, they are given free money for college. What a country we live in. If any American were living illegally in Asia, Mexico, and even parts of Europe, I don't think you would be given these privileges. In fact, you will probably get locked up for a real long time. I don't think their jails give you t.v, internet, library, etc. Just wait for this to go to the Supreme Court. Oh, that's right. What are the chances they do anything. They are just as corrupt.

The state of Maryland makes it VERY difficult to get petition signatures validated. If there is one tiny little variance between your voter's registration and what you put on the petition sheet (i.e., your middle initial/name is not included on the petition but is part of your voter registration, it's not accepted), I think it's admirable that this petition drive is linking to the website to make sure the signatures aren't invalidated on a technicality. Boohoo, Meridith and the ACLUers can't get their way on this one and they are reduced to being crybabies. Too bad, so sad.

If you all really cared about fair elections, you would not be against making sure that the people voting are actually citizens and registered to vote.

The petition scrutiny is absolutely absurd when you don't need to show any identification when you step into the voting booth. Election officials need to pull their heads out of the sand. Ole Mimi DiPietro had a saying as a City Councilman, "Vote Early, Vote Often".
When the process really matters, Maryland does nothing, but they'll make a big production out of forms for a petition.

There is 80% of the needed signatures, did 44,000 people really do this online? No! I would bet that even if you throw out the 1 signature per petition you get online, the measure is still going to the ballot in 2012. Further, how does the ACLU justify getting involved in this when there purpose is to defend my rights as a citizen?

The ACLU is just raising these issues because everybody knows if this travesty gets to a popular vote, it doesn't stand a chance.

Meredeth Curtis and her band of merry attorneys at the Criminal Liberties Union are way off base in this.
AS difficult as this process is they want to make it harder.
YET at the same time thy sue anyone who want to demand photo ID to VOTE in the first place.
The ACLU demands and has used the courts to allow almost ANYONE with a heartbeat to vote yet now wants to deny others THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to petition the government for a redress of grievances!

They ARE the ENEMY of America and have done more damage to America than Al Qaida has ever done.

The aclu needs to change it's name to Mexican Civil Liberties Union. Illegals have more rights than the citizens of Maryland. They should be sueing the Federal Govt for not deporting the ILLEGALS. I guess the MCLU does not know the definition of Illegal just like our useless pols in annapolis.

Maybe the petition could be ratified expediently if the signatories simply presented their birth certificates -long form only.

What particular part of the Constitution is being violated here? Please provide a reference.

Of course the "Arsehole Criminal Lover's Union" is criticizing this legitimate appeal. They need more derelicts who wish to take advantage of civilization's benefits (i.e. steal) without actually contributing to support them.

Next the SPLC, or "Special Parasitic Looting Committee." is going to chim in with their similar brand of Bs.

Why keep supporting Parasitism at the expense of the productive and honest?

Besides, does anyone have any idea how many students, should this bill become law, will be bumped off the admissions rolls to accommodate large numbers of illegals? They'll say it's all in the name of "die-versity" but it comes at the expense of the children of MD taxpayers.

The number of freshmen and transfers admitted will not change. It could be you if you're a student, or your kid who gets bumped off the roster.

"Thanks for paying taxes for the past two decades, but Michael needs to step aside to make room for Manuel."




The ACLU strikes again and they are hopping mad. They fought and lost the law here in Maryland that requires proof of legal residency to get a drivers license and now they don't want folks here in Maryland to decide if they want to spend money on illegals. Nothing like a herd of aclu lawyers that side with the term illegal. No way they could see how silly they look to the real world.

Just another desperate move by CASA and the ACLU.

I , for one, am sick of this character-Sick of Nigero's racist rants.
Legal immigrants of all colors are welcome here in America.
Trying reading something else beside Mein Kampf.

And COMAR says they can be printed or typed. Guess what the website does? Types if and ensures it is accurate and minimizes fraud and inaccuracy.,

.06 Signer Identification.

A. In General. Each signature page shall contain labeled spaces for providing, adjacent to each signature, the information specified in this regulation.

B. Required Information. When signing the signature page, each signer shall:

(1) Sign the individual's name as it appears on the Statewide voter registration list or the individual's surname of registration and at least one full given name and the initials of any other names; and

(2) Provide the following information, to be printed or typed in the appropriate spaces:

(a) Date of signing,

(b) Signer's name as it was signed, and

(c) Current residence address, including house number, street name, apartment number (if applicable), town, and ZIP code.

C. Optional Information.

(1) The circulator shall ask each signer to also provide the signer's date of birth or, at a minimum, month and day of birth

I'm sorry, is this any different than the fraudulent "Electronic Ballots" used in the actual presidential elections? Electronic bank transfers, faxes, emails, etc are here to stay so DEAL WITH IT A.C.L.U.

One question for Deborah Jeon of the ACLU and Del. Neil Parrott.

I understood that Del Parrott's group could not watch, witness, review or otherwise interfere with the process of counting or verifying the petition signatures.

If that is the case, has the ACLU had access to the petitions to know if any or how many have been "“pre-filled” petition forms such as those generated by the website" as the ACLU has accused the group doing?

Has there been illegal access by the ACLU to these petitions?

Has the Board of Elections allowed access to these petitions to the ACLU?
Who else has had access to these ballots? Casa de Maryland? Attorneys from anywhere?

We demand answers.

There were 17460 pages of petitions submitted as of May 31. Those pages contained 62496 signatures. SIGNATURES! Not just computer printed forms with the names and address "pre printed" were submitted. That is an average of 3.5 signatures a page. If as I know many that have done, these were printed BY the voter for his family and maybe a friend or two . Then remove all those gathered by groups at fairs etc. in mass sp numbers, it looks like there may be more individuals who have printed there pages for themselves significant other than those with many signatures on them.

This is a scam that the ACLU is using to get some kind of access to these ballots if they have not yet already.

If the ACLU can gain access to these petitions then the group that is responsible for them also has their equal access if ti is LEGAL AT ALL!

This could get serious.

After reading the ACLU's 20 pages I see how this has been misconstrued.

The ACLU is not so much interested in the issue of illegal aliens taking taxpayer money, they are demanding more scrutiny and verification of all petition signatures in Maryland than they are demanding of those VOTING in primary and general elections in Maryland.
According to the ACLU, ANYONE should be able to vote in our general elections even if they are
1: not registered on that day
2: not voting in the correct district
3: must NEVER be made to show photo ID to vote

Petition to repeal a law. Petition for redress which is a reserved right of the people guaranteed by the power the people have delegated to the government.
So many signatures in such a short time.
So many more is a shorter time.
Every DETAIL must be correct to be considered VALID. Signature, Name with initial, address, which is the ONLY question to VOTE!

ACLU, more harmful and dangerous than Al Qaeda to our liberties and freedoms.

I find it very comical that the ACLU of all organizations is questioning the petition process. There is nothing more deeply based in the First Amendment then the ability to circulate a petition - and the Supreme Court has already said so. Read Meyer v Grant and then pick a fight ACLU!

So whats it like living in a state with 1 party rule.

This isn't a statutory question. The ACLU wishes to burden the petition drives legal resources in an effort to de-rail the tuition bill's demise. Tough luck, ACLU. You should have picked a smaller target............ The PEOPLE of Maryland do not want this bill. It will be defeated regardless of the ACLU's misguided efforts. Really sorry, but not surprised to hear that the ACLU is against the Democratic process. Snotty self-important elitists, one and all.

This isn't a statutory question. The ACLU wishes to burden the petition drives legal resources in an effort to de-rail the tuition bill's demise. Tough luck, ACLU. You should have picked a smaller target............ The PEOPLE of Maryland do not want this bill. It will be defeated regardless of the ACLU's misguided efforts. Really sorry, but not surprised to hear that the ACLU is against the Democratic process. Snotty self-important elitists, one and all.

Where in the he** did all these communists come from that are now in this country. Please leave!!

When the ACLU continues to involve themselves into issues such as this, they continue to loose any creditability they may have had. How can they wake each and every morning and not see the falseness?

The end of Mary?

American Civil Liberties Union - why are they so concerned about the false civil liberties of non-Americans? These non-Americans are not being deported and they are not being kept from attending college. All they are being kept from is getting subsidized by the tax dollars of Maryland's American citizens.

Signature update as of 8:52 A.M. today.

TOTAL VALID signatures 45,015

Ruled invalid signatures 9,531

Another fine example illustrating that the ACLU is not about championing the Constitution but pushing an anti-American liberal agenda.

The ACLU's main objective is to destroy America.

Why is the ACLU worried? The end results of this petition will be two things. Either the law continues or it is put before the voters. Either way our Constitution is going to work this ordeal out. I for one think the ACLU would want to see public action transcend into a democratic vote by the populous. Clearly, this law is divisive no matter how you vote.


Because the ACLU, like Casa de Maryland, doesn't care what the voters and citizens think.

"The ACLU is worse than Al Qaeda...yada yada." I'd have expected as much unhinged vitriol from many of the right-wing lunatics posting above. These "Dream Act" initiatives are merely inappropriately timed, and push the buttons of race-bating xenophobes. And giving undocumented students (who have to jump through many hoops in order to realize the in-state tuition rate) this opportunity doesn't directly take money out of anyone's pockets. My only beef is that the MD legislature seems to have more important things on their plates at the present, on which I'd rather they spent their time.

Wow. I hope these people come to my door. Judging by the comments on this board you would think the state of Maryland said that illegal immigrants can go to college for FREE. Most of the posts here appear to be from people who have not stepped foot into an English 101 course or a higher education facility in general. I've lived in the state of Maryland for over 1 year now and I can pay in state tuition rates now, suckers. I haven't paid nearly enough taxes to rightfully earn the state tuition rate at a state school. But you know what? If somebody has lived in Maryland for more than a year then so what, let them pay to go to a university. Is the university out of any money? Not really. Will the student's qualify for federal aid? Probably not. Will illegal immigrants automatically get in? Only if they meet the qualifications.

If illegals get in-state tuition then Maryland must offer the same tuition to ALL AMERICANS based on this federal law:
8 U.S.C. § 1623 : US Code - Section 1623: Limitation on eligibility for preferential treatment of aliens not lawfully present on basis of residence for higher education benefits.
(a) In general
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not
lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the
basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for
any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of
the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an
amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen
or national is such a resident.
(b) Effective date
This section shall apply to benefits provided on or after July 1,

I did not serve throughout WWII to give our country away, nor did my MD revolutionary ancestor, Josias Massey, of Kent Co., MD

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):


Headlines from The Baltimore Sun
About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Breaking News newsletter
When a big news event breaks, we'll e-mail you the basics with links to up-to-date details.
Sign up

Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected