- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2012

After more than a week of signature-confirmation, whether Maryland’s new congressional districts will appear on the November ballot for an up or down vote is still too close to call.

By 4 p.m. Monday, the Maryland State Board of Elections had checked about 80 percent of the more than 65,000 signatures submitted by petitioners. About 89 percent of those — a total of 46,700 — were valid. In order for the petition to succeed, no more than 9,986 total signatures can be thrown out, which is 4,282 more than the 5,704 that have already been rejected.

The petition, led in part by Delegate Neil Parrott, Washington Republican, would put last year’s congressional redistricting to a public vote on November’s ballot.

“I think we’re on track to be approved by the Maryland Board of Elections, and I think that’s good news for the Maryland voters,” he said.

In order for voters to petition an issue to the November ballot, they must collect 55,736 registered voters’ signatures. Petition volunteers amassed nearly 10,000 more - a total of 65,722 - providing a generous cushion in case of invalidated signatures. The petition signatures, submitted at the end of June, have been under review this month.

The Board of Elections has until July 22 to affirm the signatures’ validity, which includes confirming voter registration and addresses.

In order for the referendum to get on the ballot, 9,036 signatures of the 13,318 remaining on Monday evening must be validated.

“I think it’s good news so far,” Mr. Parrott said. “All the effort and work that went into this is going to pay off.”

Signatures were collected in person and online through MDPetitions.com, a website Mr. Parrott developed to collect signatures to petition laws to the ballot.

The congressional map was drawn by a five-person committee appointed by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. It passed the General Assembly last year.

Opponents argue that lines have been unfairly drawn to give Democrats an edge in elections. A lawsuit arguing that the lines diluted minority-voting blocs was filed in federal court, but the new districts have been upheld.

If it is put to a vote, Mr. Parrott thinks people will agree that “the map just doesn’t make sense.”

The Board of Elections provides daily updates on the signature-verification process on its website under “Petitions.”

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