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Maryland Legislator Would Tweak Ballot Petition Process

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A Maryland delegate from the Eastern Shore is pushing two bills that would make drastic changes to how voter petition drives are certified.

The certification issue arose during last year's effort to add to the ballot a referendum on the state's "DREAM Act," which allows undocumented students the ability to receive in-state tuition rates for Maryland colleges and universities. The law, which passed during the last legislative session, could be on the ballot in 2012, although it is still facing legal challenges.

The validity of signatures on petitions has frequently been questioned. Del. Michael Smigiel (R) says an easy way to ensure public trust in such cases is to allow them to witness the state election board perform the certification, just like when votes are counted following an election. 

Opponents cited cost concerns, something Smigiel quickly dismissed.

"I beg to differ how it could possibly cost a cent to open the door to this room and let three people stand in this room watch this process," he says.  Or the press to stand there. How is it possibly going to cost a dime more?"

A second bill sponsored by Smigiel would allow those whose signatures were disqualified by the state election board to re-submit them through a  specified process. 

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