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ACLU Challenges Petition to Overturn DREAM Act

The American Civil Liberties Union argues the electronic petition form invites fraud.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has sent a to the State Board of Elections, voicing its concerns about the electronic petition form currently being used to solicit signatures by a group that is attempting to overturn the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act was passed by the Maryland State Legislature by a narrow margin earlier this year and will allow certain undocumented immigrants to attended Maryland state colleges at the discounted in-state tuition rate.

State Del. Neil Parrott is spearheading the effort to overturn the legislation, which is set to go into effect on . The group is collecting signatures in a traditional way – sending out volunteers and canvassing the public. It has also built a website that allows registered voters to fill out a form online, print it out, sign it and mail it in.

It is the first time in Maryland history that this electronic method has been used to collect signatures for a petition that could potentially halt the implementation of legislation.

“I have been here for 10 years and I have not seen this technology before,” said Mary Cramer Wagner, the Director of Voter Registration for the State Board of Elections.

The ACLU letter argues that the online form could be “highly susceptible to fraud.”

ACLU staff attorney David Rocah directed Patch to a press release on the group’s website that outlines its argument.

“Any user who knows the name, ZIP code, and birth date of an individual can easily generate a petition for that person, forge the individual’s signature, and fraudulently verify the petition on the individual’s behalf,” the release states.

Cramer Wagner said the State Board of Elections has forwarded the ACLU’s concerns to the State Attorney General’s office for review.

Del. Parrott said about 60,000 unverified signatures have been submitted to date – about half of them coming from the online electronic form.

The group needs to collect 55,736 signatures, which will then be verified by the local Boards of Elections, in order to send the legislation to the public for a vote in November 2012. Parrott said he wants to collect 100,000.

“The computer interface and website is a tool that has been designed to enhance the democratic process,” Parrott said. “What the ACLU is doing in trying to hamper the democratic process is hypocritical … I think they are grasping at straws to try to disenfranchise as many Maryland voters as possible who have signed this petition in good faith.”

The verification process will not be completed until late July. Signatures will continue to be collected through June 30.

kathy gambrill June 19, 2011 at 01:21 PM
While the ACLU is looking into this, they should also investigate why voters in Maryland do not have to show a photo ID when voting in general elections. The percentage of citizens that bother to vote at all is low, but not requiring ID invites fraud. The Dream Act should not even be a discussion. If you are here illegally, you broke the law. You should not be voting, attending school or even living here.
rick jones June 19, 2011 at 02:01 PM
I couldn't agree more. The DREAM Act is yet another chapter the book, Where Did The Middle Class Go?
Roxane June 19, 2011 at 02:12 PM
In fact, the ACLU spends lots of time and money fighting AGAINST voters having to show identification at their polling places in order to vote. They are playing both sides of the fence on this one because it goes against what they want.
JW June 19, 2011 at 02:39 PM
This country is lost and adrift. Led by self serving politicians and by voters who do not take the time to vote incumbents out. Imagine just making an error on your taxes...watch them come after you...but, oh, here illegally, no problem our tax payers will provide you plenty of benefits. Greece is a warning sign....our economy is in serious serious trouble and Washington refuses to take the corrective steps to empower the economic force of the people.
RW June 22, 2011 at 10:30 AM
The ACLU took precisely the opposite position on electronic petitions earlier this year in Utah where they sued to force the state to permit the use of electronic signatures for referendum petitions: http://www.examiner.com/county-republican-in-baltimore/aclu-strongly-supports-online-petitions-if-it-serves-their-agenda To quote from the ACLU's statement on the Utah referendum law they were challenging: "“...no valid reason exists to distinguish between e-signatures and handwritten signatures, so long as the intent of the signer is clear. Lt. Gov. Bell’s refusal to count any e-signatures violates Utah voters’ constitutional rights to use the initiative and referendum power, which is expressly reserved for the people in Article VI, Section 1 of the Utah Constitution.” The ACLU used the case of an out-of-state student who says she was disenfranchised from signing the petition because of the inability to sign online. They also reference soldiers and missionaries as other individuals who are subject to possible disenfranchisement, because they would be out of state and unable to participate in an in-person petition drive. The ACLU's position on whether using technology to facilitate petitions seems to depend on whether they like the current legislature in that state.

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