Majority of tuition signatures gathered in the field
* Updated with petition and opposition website and location information below. *
Newly released data from the State Board of Elections shows that petitioners trying to repeal a law providing in-state tuition to qualified illegal immigrants shows that nearly 64 percent of valid signatatures were gathered the old-fashioned way.
As noted this morning in The Sun, volunteers who oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have been hitting the streets hard in recent weeks, camping out at local MVAs, going door to door and approaching Marylanders at festivals, parks and other gathering places.
Del. Neil Parrott, the Washington County Republican organizing the petition drive, said he hopes to have volunteers stationed outside every MVA building in the state this weekend, during the hours that they are open.
The board today notified petitioners that 47,288 of the 62,000 or so signatures they submitted at the end of last month have been deemed valid. That means petitioners must submit just 8,448 more by the end of this month.
If the petition effort succeeds, Maryland voters would decide in November 2012 whether illegal immigrants should be allowed access to the community college and state university tuition breaks.
Petitioners supported their effort with a sophisticated website that links to a database of registered voters, a controversial method that helps ensure would-be signers use their correct name. The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and groups that advocate for immigrants have said they plan to challenge the Internet signatures.
But a signature breakdown provided to The Sun by Donna Duncan of the Board of Elections shows that while 17,092 valid signatures appear to have been Internet-generated, 30,196 came in through more traditional gathering methods such as the ones described in this morning's story.
Petitioners said they have encountered some opposition in the field, but Del. Michael D. Smigiel, a lawyer and Eastern Shore Republican, has worked to help the group gain access afforded by the First Amendment and the Maryland constitution.
The group sought a fresh opinion from the Office of the Attorney General to show authorities if they try to boot volunteers from public spaces. You can read it here.
To read what supporters of the in-state tuition law have to say, check out the One Maryland Defense campaign website.
For information about the repeal effort, here's the online signature-gathering effort, mdpetitions.com.