- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

A popular referendum effort to reverse legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly this month to implement speed cameras has been thwarted - at least for now.

The state Board of Elections informed petition organizers on Thursday that they had submitted incomplete paperwork.

Organizers said that they are disappointed but not dismayed.

“I’m not happy. You never know what [the board] is going to decide, however, I don’t think it will have a terrible impact on our ability to collect signatures,” said Daniel Zubairi of Bethesda, a former Republican congressional candidate and founder of Maryland for Responsible Enforcement.

On April 10, lawmakers passed a bill that would authorize the implementation of speed cameras in highway work zones and within a half mile of schools statewide. The act would tack a $40 citation on drivers who speed at least 12 miles per hour over the posted limit in camera-monitored zones. Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, says he intends to sign the bill into law sometime next month.

On April 15, Mr. Zubairi’s group submitted paperwork to put the issue before voters on the 2010 ballot, saying that the cameras are an infringement of privacy rights.

The petition would mirror an effort under way in Arizona and in cities and towns ranging from Cincinnati to Batavia, Ill.

On Thursday, officials at the board informed Mr. Zubairi that the state attorney general’s office deemed his petition incomplete, saying it did not include full summaries of some provisions of the original legislation. Most of the missing summaries related to provisions regarding how local governments would spend revenue generated by the cameras.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the board’s Candidacy and Campaign Finance division, said the group submitted a revised petition Thursday afternoon, and that it had been sent back to the Attorney General’s Office for approval. Mr. DeMarinis said that approval could be given within five business days.

“We don’t try to delay these things, but we have to act according to what the AG office tells us,” he said.

Mr. Zubairi said he doesn’t think the revisions will hurt the language of the petition.

“Some of what they wanted us to clarify were strange, but then again the more information we provide the stronger our petition will be,” he said.

In order to have the petition considered for the ballot, organizers must collect a minimum number of signatures that is equal to 3 percent of votes cast for governor in the previous election, or about 53,000 signatures. A third of the signatures must be collected by June 1.

After waiting at least a week to have the petition considered, there is concern that with the added downtime might not leave enough time to collect the necessary signatures before the deadline.

Mr. Zubairi said he is confident his group will overcome the delay.

“We already have so many people committed to this effort, I think we’ll be fine,” he said.

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