Drive to overturn death penalty repeal in trouble, lawmaker acknowledges


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, center, talks with House Speaker Michael Busch, right, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller as he signs a bill abolishing capital punishment. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

One of the supporters of a petition drive to overturn Maryland’s death penalty repeal acknowledged Thursday that the effort has run into trouble.

“I’m concerned we’re not going to make it,” said Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County). “It’s been hard to know where to go for signatures.”

His comments came the day before the deadline for repeal opponents to turn in an initial batch of signatures that would allow the drive to continue.

A successful effort by MDPetitions.com, the group leading the petition drive, would halt the death penalty repeal law pending a statewide vote in November 2014.

The group has until midnight Friday to turn in 18,579 valid signatures to Maryland’s secretary of state. If the group succeeds, it will be given another month to produce an additional 37,157 signatures of registered voters.

Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), chairman of MDPetitions.com, has scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon to update the public on the effort. He did not return phone calls Thursday.

The repeal law was championed during this year’s legislative session by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who argued that capital punishment is costly and ineffective.

Parrott’s group successfully petitioned three issues to the 2012 ballot, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. (All three were upheld by voters.)

Brochin said that on same-sex marriage, churches were an obvious target for signature gathering. There is no similar ready-made constituency related to repeal of the death penalty, he said.

“It’s a lot harder to do this than other issues,” he said.

If MDPetitions.com fails, the law repealing the death penalty will take effect Oct. 1. O’Malley signed the bill this month.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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