HB 127: Maryland Referendum Integrity Act


HB 127 Testimony – March 7, 2012

The Honorable Sheila Hixson
Chairman, and Members of the
House Ways and Means Committee
Annapolis, Maryland

 

Dear Chairman Hixson and Committee Members,

The Maryland Federation of Republican Women and the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County strongly oppose HB 127 to add additional requirements to the Referendum process.

When studying the current Referendum process and the history of Referendums in Maryland, the purpose and value of several HB 127 provisions are unclear. Prior to this year, Maryland had not had a successful petition drive since 1992. A Referendum on the ballot has not succeeded since 1974. Why does the Referendum process need more rules when it is such a rare occurrence? What documented fraud has occurred that necessitates further complicating the process?

Large parts of HB 127 are almost exact copies of sections of the current Maryland Board of Elections “Procedures for Filing a Statewide or a Public Local Law Referendum Petition”. The remaining parts of the bill further complicate the process while offering no notable increases in the integrity of the process.

Maryland law already requires that a voter write out their information on a petition. The petition circular can only write a voter’s info down for them if the voter requests that they do so. In such cases, the voter must still sign their name themselves.

Maryland law already requires an affidavit for each signature page. The proposed notarization of every affidavit of each signature page does nothing to increase the integrity of the signatures. Since notaries are simply required to verify the identity of the signer(s) of the affidavit and not its content, the quality of the signatures will be unaffected by notarization. Simply put, if a petition circular decided to create and submit fraudulent signature pages, the addition a notary does nothing to stop them. In such a case, under both the current law and HB127, the Board of Elections would be responsible for catching the fraud.

Furthermore, adding a notarization requirement to the Referendum process will add a significant financial and/or labor burden to the process. This burden could disenfranchise poor and minority voters from joining a petition drive. Since notaries require Photo ID before notarizing any documents, HB 127 will in effect require all petition circulars to have valid Photo IDs. In addition, anyone who cannot recruit a volunteer notary to join their drive will have to pay as much as $2 per affidavit to comply with HB 127. Given the number of sheets of signatures required to meet the 3 percent minimum (around 2800 sheets), HB 127 could cost a petition drive upwards of $5,000.

The Maryland Federation of Republican Women and the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County believe that the Referendum process should be transparent and honest. We believe that the signatures of a petition should be scrutinized and reviewed to guard against fraud. The additional regulations in HB127 further neither of these ideals. Instead of adding integrity to the Referendum process, HB127 adds costly and burdensome rules to an already effective process. Please vote NO on HB127.

Sincerely,

Barbara Morsberger
Legislative Chairman
Republican Woman of Anne Arundel County
barb@mmpcrofton.com

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