Group takes Columbia rezoning referendum to court

Swatek's group seeks judicial review

May 06, 2010

Unhappy that their petition drive to put the housing portion of the downtown Columbia rezoning on November's ballot was disqualified by the Howard County Board of Elections, Russell Swatek's Taxpayers Against Giveaways group has asked for a review in Circuit Court, he said, and will seek federal court relief, too.

County elections board administrator Betty Nordaas confirmed that judicial review has been requested and said the board has also taken additional signatures from Swatek "for safekeeping," though they are not officially accepted.

The petition drive died after the board found too many signatures did not qualify under Maryland's stringent referendum rules. Swatek said most of the signatures disqualified were from registered voters and, while there was no reason to doubt their identity, their signatures might not have matched exactly their printed name or their name on voter rolls.

A Howard Circuit Court ruling April 28 found in a similar case that the elections board properly followed state law according to a decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals. Attempts to change the referendum law in the General Assembly have failed two consecutive years. The TAG group believes the rezoning would allow too many residences in Columbia's town center.

— Larry Carson

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