Memorial Day weekend may be a break for most, but an e-mail solicitation Friday revealed it will be a working holiday for supporters of an effort to petition Maryland’s congressional redistricting map to the November ballot.
After successfully gathering enough signatures to put Maryland’s Dream Act before voters, and partnering with anti-gay-marriage groups to put that issue on a glide path to referendum, MDPetitions.com founder Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington) warned supporters Friday that the group is in danger of failing to meet next week’s deadline to produce over 18,000 signatures for the redistricting ballot measure.
“We don’t yet have the signatures we need in hand,” Parrott wrote in an e-mail titled “Saturday’s mail?” The solicitation asked supporters to sign and print an online petition and mail the signature card by Saturday to help ensure the group can meet its goal.
Under Maryland’s election law, a third of the 55,736 signatures needed to petition a measure to the ballot must be turned in by midnight on May 31. With thousands of signatures routinely rejected on technical grounds, MDPetitions likely needs to turn in more than 24,000 signatures to feel confident that enough signatures will be counted as valid.
“If we can get the map in front of voters, they are willing to sign the petition – it becomes very popular to sign once they see it,” Parrott said in an interview. “The problem is, the energy behind it isn’t as great as that behind [stopping] gay marriage or illegal immigrants” from getting in-state tuition breaks, he said.
Parrott’s e-mail said the group has about 50 volunteers going to parades, baseball games, and other events across the state to gather signatures this weekend.
Parrott said that unlike the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which plans to announce on Tuesday how many signatures it has collected, MDPetitions.com likely won’t turn in its tally until the final hours before Thursday night’s deadline.
“We’re going to have an all-out effort in the last six days,” Parrott said. ”I believe we can meet the target.”
Maryland’s controversial redistricting map passed the state’s General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley last fall, despite protests from good-government groups and an eleventh-hour attempt to derail it by one of the state’s two African American members of Congress.
The map lumped some 120,000 minority voters in Montgomery County into a mostly white district in Western Maryland in an attempt to unseat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the state’s senior Republican lawmaker.
A three-judge panel reviewed the map and questioned the role of politics in slicing up existing districts, but concluded it was legal.