Signatures Sought For Referendum

Abortion Foes Press For Vote On Newlaw

June 05, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

Pushing to meet the June 30 deadline, anti-abortion activists hope to gather 60,000 more signatures to ensure that Maryland's new law legalizing abortions will come to a referendum.

Although activists statewide turned in 30,687 signatures to Maryland's secretary of state at the June 1 intermediate deadline -- 2,686 shy of the 33,373 necessary -- members want a cushion in the event some of the signatures cannot be verified.

Carroll activists turned in 1,825 unverified signatures last week.

Under Maryland law, an issue goes to referendum if 3 percent of the registered voters petition the state. One-third of those signatures must be turned in by June 1; the remainder are due by June 30.

If abortion foes -- who have been gathering signatures since April 6 -- are successful, the issue will be voted on in the November 1992 general election.

"We had to guarantee that we could show (the secretary of state) 11,112 valid signatures by the end of May, and turned in 30,000 to guarantee we would have that," said Samuel Bogley, a former lieutenant governor and chairman of the state Right to kNOw Coalition.

The group's name was chosen to represent the belief of abortion opponents that Marylanders will vote no if they "know" what is inthe law, Bogley said.

"We would like to turn in 60,000 to guarantee us the 22,000 valid signatures necessary (for the second deadline)," he said.

Bogley said anti-abortion advocates want extra signatures since people may have been removed from voter registration rolls.

"We have found that a lot of people have stopped voting, and Please see that can eliminate you from the (voter) rolls if you have not voted for five years," he said. "If you miss two of the major elections, you could be purged from the rolls and not know until you go to vote."

Petitions are separated by county and verified by their respective election boards.

By Monday evening, Rosemary McCloskey -- chief clerk of Carroll's Board of Elections -- said she had not received the county signatures, but hoped to have them verified within fourto five business days of receipt.

Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll,Baltimore -- one of the two leading proponents of abortion-rights legislation in the House -- said although the issue will probably go toreferendum, he thinks the law will be upheld.

"We fully expected the issue would go to referendum," he said. "We feel it's great for the people to decide the question."

Baltimore County has turned in the most signatures so far -- 2,742.

"You can't turn in more than 50 percent of the signatures from one county, so we intentionally setout to get our signatures statewide," Bogley said.

Anti-abortion advocates say they have not turned in to the state all signatures they have gathered.

"We're still processing some of the petitions," Bogley said. "Once you turn them in, they become the property of the state Board of Elections, so we're making copies of all of them."

Within Carroll, the petition drive was primarily aimed at churches andsocial organizations, said Stanley Dill of Westminster, Right to kNOw's regional coordinator for Carroll and Frederick counties.

Individuals then took petitions through their neighborhoods, to their workplaces or large gatherings like Hampstead Days, he said.

"Organizing a door-to-door campaign takes a lot of time, manpower and coordination, and we knew time was at a premium," said Dill. "We tried to go where the greatest concentration of people could be found."

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