ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Republican opponents of Maryland’s congressional redistricting map expressed confidence Monday that they have submitted enough valid signatures to give voters a chance to reject it in November. Democrats questioned whether the GOP had reached its goal.

Delegate Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who has been leading the effort, said a total of 65,722 signatures had been turned in by midnight Saturday, the deadline. That’s nearly 10,000 more than the 55,736 valid signatures needed, and Parrott said he was confident the number would hold up to a review by the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The board already has validated 26,763 signatures from a previous deadline, out of 29,455 that were submitted for a May 31 deadline. Opponents turned in 36,267 on Saturday night, they said.

“What we turned in were signatures that we believe are going to be counted,” Parrott said, noting that scores of other petitions were held back if the group leading the effort thought they might be rejected.

Democrats vowed to weigh all options, even if the board validates enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

“Pending the State Board of Elections’ determination that the validated petition signatures satisfy constitutional requirements, the Maryland Democratic Party will weigh all options to protect the integrity of the referendum process and ensure that every petition was completed and collected in line with Maryland laws and regulations,” David Sloan, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party said in a statement.

Critics say Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s redistricting map, which was approved by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly in October, has been gerrymandered to favor the party at the expense of fair representation. In particular, Republicans have expressed outrage at big changes to the 6th Congressional District that they
say were made to oust 10-term Republican incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

Democrats contend the changes reflect demographic shifts in the state’s population.

Parrott has led petition drives to put other measures on the ballot as well with the help of online technology to facilitate the signature-gathering process, including a law that would allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants under certain circumstances and another allowing same-sex marriage in the state. The state elections board already has validated more than enough signatures to put those laws on the ballot.

The board has until July 20 to verify and count the signatures and until July 23 to certify the results.

Maryland has eight congressional districts. Six are held by Democrats and two are held by Republicans. Democrats hold a 2-1 advantage over Republicans in voter registration.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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