Failed speed camera effort brings calls for reform
Petitioning to Maryland ballot relatively easy, expert says
Maryland lawmakers should look to reform how laws are petitioned to referendum, said leaders of a failed effort to put the state's speed camera law on the 2010 ballot.
But, compared to most states, Marylanders trying to put a referendum before voters have it easy, said the deputy director of a think tank that researches and promotes ballot measures.
Speed camera petition organizers announced early last week, two hours before a signature deadline, that they had collected more than 16,000 signatures, falling less than 2,000 short of the minimum number of valid signatures needed by June 1.
The state required 17,883 signatures by June 1 and 53,650 valid signatures by June 30, which is 3 percent of people who voted in the 2006 gubernatorial election.
Organizers cited Maryland's strict guidelines for bringing a law to referendum — the short time frame to collect signatures and the requirement that signatures exactly match the name recorded in voting files — as being too tall a hurdle to surmount.
"Despite anger and rage over this issue, it was still too difficult to reach the numbers," said Daniel Zubairi of Bethesda, who co-chaired the group Maryland For Responsible Enforcement, which organized the petition drive.
The requirement of collecting valid signatures from 3 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election is a "very low" standard, said Joel Foster, deputy director of programs for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center in Washington, D.C. "Frankly, it's probably easier in Maryland than it is in other states."
While speed camera petition organizers claimed they were squeezed by time — less than two months between the bill's passage April 6 and the first deadline — most states allow only 45 to 90 days to collect a great number of signatures, Foster said.