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Montgomery judge denies appeal over signatures

A Montgomery County judge has rejected efforts to revive a pair of referendums that had been rejected because of the way thousands of citizens signed their names.

Montgomery Circuit Court judge Robert A. Greenberg on Friday denied an appeal by a group opposed to a recently passed ambulance fee. Greenberg ordered that their referendum not be placed on the November ballot.

Greenberg noted that Maryland's highest court had ruled that that petition gatherers must follow the letter of state law.

"This court is obliged to follow that command," Greenberg wrote.

Maryland law, as interpreted by the Court of Appeals, says voters must sign their name as it appears on the statewide voter registration list, or they must include the surname from their registration and "at least one full given name and the initials of any other names."

That meant that many voters who signed, for example, without their middle initial had their signatures invalidated.

Eric Bernard, executive director of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, said he was disappointed, though not surprised, by the decision. He said the group would file an appeal to the high court Monday. "We should know Monday whether the Court of Appeals will accept it," Bernard said.

Greenberg this week threw out a separate suit by Republican council candidate Robin Ficker on a technicality. Ficker had appealed a decision by elections officials to keep his term limits referendum off the ballot over signature issues, but the judge ruled that he filed suit under the wrong name, Ficker said. The judge said it should have been filed under his own name, not that of a group of fellow activists, Ficker said. He's also considering an appeal.

By Michael Laris  | September 24, 2010; 1:26 PM ET
Tags:  montgomery ambulance fee; montogmery petitions; montgomery politics; robin ficker  
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Once again the political establishment in Moco and Maryland, quashes the peoples ability to challenge the elected elites decisions. Whatg candidate or incumbent for the state legislature has the courage to stand up and change this oppressive law?

Posted by: VikingRider | September 24, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

It is important to note that elected county officials, particularly Ike Leggett, have not merely sat on the sidelines saying 'oh dear they couldn't meet the new petition requirements', but have in fact *actively* worked to keep this petition off the ballot and limit our ability to petition in the future.

In a recent online forum Leggett responded to a question about the petition regarding whether he would call for a change to protect our petition rights, and regarding how much taxpayer money was being spent in court keeping this off the ballot by saying "I have no hesitation in asking our County Attorney to intervene in support of the Board of Elections" and called the cost of the intervention "resources well spent". And from the recent Post story on this, County spokesman Patrick Lacefield (who speaks for Leggett) said he was "happy with the ruling, and hopeful that it will stand." County officials are not innocent bystanders, they are gleefully using our tax dollars to throw new barriers in front of petition efforts and erode a right guaranteed by the Maryland Constitution.

This is NOT just about the ambulance fee, it is a civil liberties issue. Elected officials who have such arrogant contempt for their constituents' right to question their decisions do not deserve to be in office. Dump Ike and support Doug Rosenfeld for county executive.

Posted by: afpre42 | September 27, 2010 6:36 AM | Report abuse

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