ANNAPOLIS—An encouraged Del. Neil Parrott was in the Maryland Secretary of State’s office in Annapolis on Thursday night, where organizers of a petition drive challenging in-state tuition for illegal immigrants were about to deliver 74,980 signatures.
That would put the total number of signatures on a petition seeking a voter referendum on the law at more than 100,000, according to Parrott, R-Washington.
Parrott said he and other organizers were still organizing names in the secretary of state’s office at 9:30 p.m. He said they planned to turn over the petition signatures by 10 p.m.
Parrott said he did not have a feel for how many might be valid, but he felt it was a “good percentage.”
Signatures in the petition drive had to be handed in by midnight. Parrott said he and other organizers of the petition effort were continuing to get names up until the end.
“Over the last week, we have had a surge. It’s been very encouraging,” he said.
Parrott said he needs 55,736 valid signatures to put the measure on the statewide ballot for the November 2012 election. State elections officials have already validated 47,288 signatures.
After the signatures are submitted, local elections boards will have until July 20 to verify them and return them to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Then, the state elections board will have two days to determine whether the 55,736 signatures needed are valid. If opponents fail to get the needed signatures, the bill would take effect Aug. 1.
The measure allowing in-state tuition for certain illegal immigrants was one of the most contentious bills approved by the General Assembly in April. The House of Delegates passed the bill on a 74-65 vote. The Senate approved the legislation 27-20.
The bill allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at four-year public colleges if they complete two years at a community college after attending three years of high school.
Students also will have to show that their parents paid state income taxes. Male students would also be required to sign up for Selective Service to be eligible for the draft.
Supporters have argued that Maryland would be better off if everyone, regardless of immigration status, is educated. Many illegal immigrants who have lived much of their lives in Maryland can't afford out-of-state tuition, supporters have said.
Parrott has said Maryland should be clamping down on illegal immigration, not rewarding it.
He said the bill would force legal residents, some of whom also can't afford college, to subsidize the education of illegal immigrants.
People signing the petition had two ways to do so. They could sign the petition at a website, then print if out and mail it to a post office box in Funkstown. Or a volunteer would ask them to sign the petition.