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ACLU Challenges Petition to Overturn DREAM Act

The American Civil Liberties Union argues the electronic petition form invites fraud.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Marylandhas sent a  to the State Board of Elections, voicing its concerns about the electronic petition form currently being used to solicit signatures by a group that is attempting to overturn theDREAM Act.

The DREAM Act was passed by the Maryland State Legislature by a narrow margin earlier this year and will allow certain undocumented immigrants to attended Maryland state colleges at the discounted in-state tuition rate.

State Del. Neil Parrott is spearheading the effort to overturn the legislation, which is set to go into effect on . The group is collecting signatures in a traditional way – sending out volunteers and canvassing the public. It has also built a website that allows registered voters to fill out a form online, print it out, sign it and mail it in.

It is the first time in Maryland history that this electronic method has been used to collect signatures for a petition that could potentially halt the implementation of legislation.

“I have been here for 10 years and I have not seen this technology before,” said Mary Cramer Wagner, the Director of Voter Registration for the State Board of Elections.

The ACLU letter argues that the online form could be “highly susceptible to fraud.”

ACLU staff attorney David Rocah directed Patch to a press release on the group’s website that outlines its argument.

“Any user who knows the name, ZIP code, and birth date of an individual can easily generate a petition for that person, forge the individual’s signature, and fraudulently verify the petition on the individual’s behalf,” the release states.

Cramer Wagner said the State Board of Elections has forwarded the ACLU’s concerns to the State Attorney General’s office for review.

Del. Parrott said about 60,000 unverified signatures have been submitted to date – about half of them coming from the online electronic form.

The group needs to collect 55,736 signatures, which will then be verified by the local Boards of Elections, in order to send the legislation to the public for a vote in November 2012. Parrott said he wants to collect 100,000.

“The computer interface and website is a tool that has been designed to enhance the democratic process,” Parrott said. “What the ACLU is doing in trying to hamper the democratic process is hypocritical … I think they are grasping at straws to try to disenfranchise as many Maryland voters as possible who have signed this petition in good faith.”

The verification process will not be completed until late July. Signatures will continue to be collected through June 30.

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