Challenge To Dream Act Petition Could Take It Off The 2012 Ballot

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Marylanders expect to vote on the question of tuition breaks for undocumented students in next year’s general election ballot.

But a challenge to the petitions that put the law on referendum could change that.

Political reporter Pat Warren has the latest developments in this continuing controversy.

On May 10, the Maryland Dream Act for students with no legal status in the U.S. was signed into law.

“Providing for in-state tuition to Maryland high school graduates whose families have been paying taxes in Maryland,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said.

In June, more than 100,000 signatures on a petition for referendum stopped it cold.

“I can’t see why we’re supporting them when we’re having such financial difficulties anyway,” said one opponent of the Dream Act.

Supporters of the Dream Act gathered to defend it.

“The Dream Act gives hope to our young people in this state to move forward,” said one.

In August, opponents of the referendum went to court to prevent the question from appearing on the ballot.

“The hopes and the dreams and the plans of these young people have been disrupted,” attorney Joseph Sandler said.

Now, the organizers of the petition drive are defending their process.

“Here we have illegal aliens suing American citizens in order to prevent them from voting,” said Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County., the Internet arm of the drive, has been granted permission to be a party in the case. The suit claims, in part, they should not have been allowed to use the Internet to gather signatures.

“There is nothing in Maryland law that says that is not proper,” an official from the national public interest group Judicial Watch said.

Judicial Watch represents MDPetitions.

“We’re confident we’re going to be able to overcome those challenges in court,” said the official.

The court has scheduled a January hearing and is expected to rule in plenty of time for any appeals to be settled in order for the Board of Elections to meet its deadline for printing the November ballot.

The Board of Elections validated almost twice the number of signatures required to put the referendum on the ballot.

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