State should give referendum process a second look [Letter]

December 10, 2013

The right to referendum is the basic democratic right of the people to appeal a government legislative action through petition and the power of the vote. As a former citizen activist and a current elected official, I wholeheartedly support this right.

In 2010, I sponsored Howard County Council Bill 34, which clarified that county law has a minimal role in the referendum process which is governed by state law. CB 34 sought to elucidate this for the Board of Elections. In light of recent petition failures, I believe that the Board of Elections needs guidance from the state and that the state law needs to be made clear. I've sent a letter to Howard County's state delegation and asked for a review of state laws and guidelines governing the referendum process to ensure that this basic right can be fairly realized by the citizens in Howard County, whom we serve.

Our state delegation members have been supportive of the citizen's role in government in the past and I am confident that, as they prepare for the 2014 General Assembly session, they will give serious consideration to a review of the referendum process to ensure that the requirements specific to petitions are clear and that the process of crafting petitions and petition approval will be improved.

The state legislature must ensure that the voice of the citizens can be heard through a fair referendum process. The right to petition is fundamental to democracy.

Courtney Watson

Courtney Watson is a Howard County Councilwoman and candidate for county executive

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