A petition drive by Maryland GOP lawmakers to halt the state’s version of the DREAM Act appears to have succeeded in getting the measure on the November 2012 ballot. However, court challenges over online signature gathering methods could be on the way, The Washington Post reports.
The Maryland law granted in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants at state colleges and universities, a move that could cost the state $40,000 per student for a four-year education.
Critics of the measure plan to turn in 100,000 signatures this week.
State election officials have already certified the approximately 56,000 needed to suspend the law and put it on the ballot. The measure was to take effect Friday, according to the Post.
“People want to enforce immigration law, not skirt around it,” Republican delegate Neil Parrott said. “This was a highly divisive bill with bipartisan opposition that barely passed. It’s important to allow the residents of Maryland to have the final say.”
The law is the first to be decided by Maryland voters in 20 years. An abortion rights measure went before the voters in 1992 and was affirmed. Regardless, legal challenges are expected in the DREAM Act petition drive as organizers built and used an online tool to gather tens of thousands of signatures.
The online tool prints out a voter’s name and information exactly as it is listed in registration records and the voter then needs only to sign a print out of the petition and mail it to the campaign. State Board of Elections officials note that more than a third of the signatures already validated were generated using the online tool, the Post reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has already asked the elections board to look into the online tool.
In a letter sent last month, the ACLU said the method could not only “determine the fate of the DREAM Act petition effort, but could also dramatically change the petition process in Maryland going forward, opening many more state and local laws to petition challenges in the future.”
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