Organizers of an effort to repeal a Maryland law granting college tuition breaks to illegal immigrants said Wednesday that they have collected 62,496 signatures to force a public vote — a significantly higher number than an estimate provided 24 hours before.
On Tuesday afternoon, leaders of the group MDPetitions.com said they were prepared to turn in more than 40,000 signatures to meet an initial deadline established by law. But the batch they turned into the secretary of state shortly before midnight Wednesday grew considerably, they said.
If all the signatures claimed Wednesday are founded to be valid, the group will have met the threshold for putting the law on hold and calling a statewide referendum on the issue in November 2012.
“We are overwhelmed by support from Marylanders across the state,” said Del.Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), chairman of the group, which plans to continue collecting signatures for the rest of June.
In past petition drives, a large percentage of signatures have been thrown out because they do not match the names of voters as they appear on the state’s voting rolls.
Opponents of the new law have until June 30 to collect 55,736 valid signatures — or 3 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election — required to hold a statewide referendum on the law.
The law, signed this month by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), would allow students who are illegal immigrants to pay the lower in-state rates at the state’s colleges and universities. To be eligible, students must have attended a Maryland high school for three years, provide proof that their parents are taxpayers and express their intent to become a citizen.