After petitions sent three Maryland laws to voters this fall — the first such referendums in 20 years — state leaders said Tuesday that the process designed in the era before electronic signatures needs a fresh look. “Our forefathers never imagined everything that we did in Annapolis would be subject to referendum,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said. Opponents of same-sex marriage, the Dream Act that granted in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants and the redrawn congressional boundaries harnessed the petition process, gathering enough signatures to place each law on the November ballot. Voters upheld them all, and the referendum process underwent new public scrutiny.
Shortly after the election, O’Malley told the news media, “It’s probably been made a little too easy” to put laws up for referendum. On Tuesday, his spokeswoman confirmed the governor thinks the process “needs to be looked at.” Miller questioned whether electronic signatures should be verified by someone other than the people who gave them. And Busch said lawmakers should reconsider the number of signatures required to send a law to the ballot — a threshold, he said, that was set in the days they were collected by going door-to-door.
“It should be fair,” Busch said. “I don’t think it should be easy; I don’t think it should be hard. … We’re a representative democracy, and we’re sent here to make decisions. We can’t have a referendum every time someone doesn’t like one.” Other Democrats and some Republican lawmakers are working on legislation in addition to the changes contemplated by leadership.