The head of the city's Republican Party said today that more than enough signatures have been gathered for a referendum asking voters to adopt 18 single-member council districts.
The council currently has six districts, each with three members.
David Blumberg, the Republican Party head who is an organizer of Baltimoreans for Fair Representation, said his group has collected 13,800 signatures. The group needed 10,000 signatures by Aug. 12. The group is trying to get the referendum on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election.
Blumberg said the group is collecting more signatures than required because some of the signatures may be invalidated by the Board of Elections.
Barbara Jackson, who heads the city's Board of Elections, said the board usually invalidates 2 percent to 3 percent of the signatures on referendum petitions.
Blumberg said his group wants 18 single-member districts because it would be easier to represent residents in smaller geographic areas. He denied accusations by council members that Blumberg is actually trying to get a Republican elected to the council. A Republican hasn't been elected to the City Council since 1939, said Blumberg.
"[City Council President] Mary Pat Clarke says it's a Republican trick, but it's not," he said.
Meanwhile, City Council members say they will ask Blumberg and other members of the group to drop the referendum drive during a hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.
"We want to see if the Republicans can cooperate," to put off their petition drive, said council member Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, D-5th, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.
"I'm open-minded, but it's up to us to let the people know it's not a Republican trick. You could cut up the city 40 different ways and not get a Republican elected," said Blumberg.
He said many volunteers on the referendum drive and people signing petitions are not Republicans.
The council's judiciary committee wants to hold off all proposals to change the councilmanic districts until a Charter Revision Study Group appointed by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke finishes evaluating redistricting next year.
At a council hearing last week, the judiciary committee tabled three bills sponsored by council members proposing to change the number of City Council members and districts.
The bills -- sponsored by Councilmen Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd; Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd; and Carl Stokes D-2nd -- came on the heels of the council's bitter fight over redistricting, which changed the boundaries, but not the number of districts or council members.
Cunningham is proposing 11 single-member council districts with a president elected by the council, rather than the voters. Ambridge wants six districts, each with two members. Stokes wants nine districts with two members each.
Any charter amendment bill passed by the City Council would
have to go to the voters before being enacted.