Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Baltimore County Referendum Charter Amendment

The Referendum in Maryland is a petition option reserved for the citizens to have final say in whether legislation passed by our representatives becomes law. The citizens can petition a bill to referendum, which simply means that, if enough valid signatures are collected in the timeframe allowed, the bill will be placed on the ballot at the next election for a vote up or down by the people. The Referendum is the citizens veto power in the system of checks and balances.
The requirements for petitioning a bill to referendum in Maryland is difficult, requiring the number of signatures equal to 3% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election.  Moreover, the rules for gathering and signing result in a high number of signatures being invalidated due to minor errors, such as leaving off one's middle initial.  And the timeframe for collection is very short.
In Baltimore County, the requirements are over three times more stringent, requiring a whopping 10%.  Maryland law allows the counties to set petition requirements up to the 10% limit, and Baltimore County has unfortunately opted for the maximum allowable.
This overwhelming signature requirement essentially leaves county citizens without a viable Referendum petition process and results in the disenfranchisement of many citizens.  

In addition, during the 2013 regular session of the Maryland General Assembly, two bills are being considered which will effectively destroy the viability of petitioning in Maryland, even on the county level.
We the citizens must have a viable petition process as our only recourse to overturn unwanted legislation.

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