Maryland voters may be unfairly denied the chance to vote their approval or disapproval of a new law that allows in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, an opponent of the law says, blaming immigrant groups for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit against his petition drive.
Attorneys for students and an immigrant services group filed a lawsuit against the state election board Monday claiming the board improperly counted thousands of the signatures that were collected by MdPetitions.com. Among other claims, they say the names were susceptible to fraud.
"I can sign your name and have other people sign those other names," Joseph Sandler, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, told The Gazette newspaper. "And no one would know the difference because the signatures aren't checked against anything. So if the voter doesn't put in their own information, there's no safeguard against rampant fraud."
Sandler says the so-called Dream Act cannot be put to a referendum because it provides money for government-funded education.
Neil Parrot, who helped start MdPetitions.com, in part, to challenge the Dream Act vote, calls criticism of the petition misguided and that the lawsuit "frivolous."
“All we want to do is allow voters to vote on the bill in November 2012," he said. "Opponents are just grabbing at straws here."
Parrot said about 109,000 signatures were scrutinized and approved by the election board, even though only about 55,000 were needed to demand the vote. He called the lawsuit a "last ditch" effort by proponents of the bill that passed in Maryland earlier this year.
The Dream Act was supposed to take effect on July 1 but is on hold while it is being challenged in court. It would grant in-state rates to immigrant students who graduate from the state's high schools and whose family filed state income taxes for three years.
"This is the democracy at work," Parrot said. "We're going to fight it."