UPDATED(3:43 p.m.)—Supporters of a bill granting in-state tuition rates to some illegal immigrants filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn an effort to put the issue on the 2012 ballot.
Casa De Maryland, in a statement released this morning, said the lawsuit was based on "illegalities discovered in the signatures submitted to and incorrectly validated by the Board as well as the grounds for relief."
In all, opponents of the bill collected 132,071 signatures. The Maryland State Board of Elections certified that about 83 percent of those signatures—108,923— were valid.
The bill was to have gone into effect on July 1 but is now on hold because of the referendum.
Representatives of Casa De Maryland did not return calls from a reporter seeking comment.
In a statement on its website, the group said the alleges that "more than 50,000 of the signatures turned in by petition sponsors and found valid by the Board were actually invalid under Maryland law. The majority of those invalid signatures were purportedly of voters whose information was not filled out by the voter herself, as required by law, but was instead filled out by a computer program operated by the petition sponsors—a violation of Maryland law."
The statement went on to say that several thousand additional signatures "appeared on petition forms that did not contain either a summary of the text of the law—another plain violation of Maryland law that indicates the voters had no way of knowing what they were actually signing. Tens of thousands of other signatures that were counted as valid violated other clear requirements of the Maryland election law."
The group further alleges that certifying the referendum violates the state constitution which "forbids referenda on appropriations measures precisely to prevent the type of disruption of government programs that has occurred because of the effort to petition the Maryland DREAM Act to referendum—in this case, disruption of the plans of students, including the two plaintiffs, who have worked hard in high school, and who have struggled, and saved to attend community college, and whose futures now depend on the in-state tuition exemption lawfully granted by the General Assembly," according to the statement.
Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the teachers association, said the group is supporting the lawsuit because it supported the bill when it was before the General Assembly earlier this year.
The law firms of Arnold & Porter LLP and Sandler, Reiff, Young & Lamb, P.C. are representing the organization free of charge.
Del. Pat McDonough, a Middle River Republican and outspoken opponent of the tuition bill, said the lawsuit was meaningless.
"It's a desperation move," McDonough said. "Obviously it doesn't have much merit since the ACLU doesn't want to participate."
The challenge to the referendum effort was not unexpected.
In June, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Maryland State Board of Elections used by opponents of the bill.
"Every system in the country is subject to fraud," McDonough said of the ACLU complaint and the lawsuit. "You can't just say something is subject to fraud. You must prove that fraud occurred and you have to prove that it has an impact on the outcome [of the referendum drive]. I don't think that's possible."
The name of a state teachers association spokesman has been corrected in this article.