ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Enough signatures have been validated to put Maryland’s congressional redistricting map on the ballot for voters to decide in a November referendum, the Maryland State Board of Elections determined Wednesday.

Signatures of 56,323 people had been validated by Wednesday afternoon. Opponents needed 55,736 to put the map on the ballot. Officials found 7,057 signatures to be invalid, and there are still about 2,900 signatures left to be verified.

“They have acquired sufficient signatures for ballot placement,” said Donna Duncan, the board’s election management

Critics say the map approved by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has been gerrymandered to favor Democrats at the expense of fair representation, while Democratic supporters say the changes reflect demographic shifts in the state’s population.

Delegate Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who led the petition drive, described the successful effort as the first step to reunite communities that have been unnecessarily divided.

“The map that was presented by the governor divides Maryland communities and minorities all across the state,” Parrott said.

The Maryland Democratic Party has pledged to weigh all options and ensure every petition was completed in line with Maryland laws and regulations.

The largest number of valid signatures came from Anne Arundel County, where 12,179 were submitted. Baltimore County came next with 9,497. Frederick and Washington counties in western Maryland submitted the next highest, 6,383 and 6,375 respectively.

Republicans have been particularly critical of significant changes to the 6th Congressional District in western Maryland that they say were made to try to oust 10-term Republican incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. Parrott said the map erodes rural representation by moving large parts of suburban Montgomery County into two districts that were previously represented by Bartlett in western Maryland.

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 in the state.

If the petition drive is certified and withstands potential court challenges, the ballot question will be added to several
Maryland voters will decide in addition to elected offices in November.

The state elections board on Tuesday officially certified that opponents of a law allowing same-sex marriage have acquired enough signatures to put that law on the ballot. Voters also will have the final say on a law that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities under certain circumstances. Voters will also decide a constitutional amendment that would remove a public official from office upon a finding of guilt in a criminal case, instead of at sentencing.

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


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