Ballot Questions Can Still Stop Maryland from Becoming a Sanctuary State and New York City from Giving Foreign Nationals the Vote

Last week was undeniably a bad one for those of us who believe in the rule of law and the value of American citizenship.  The open-borders crowd chalked up two big wins. The first in Maryland where the state legislature overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of a sanctuary state bill. The next in New York City where the city council passed legislation to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. 

So these fights are over and lost and it’s time to move onto the next ones, right?

Nope.  This was just round one. We can still win if we don’t give up.  Obviously litigation is a possibility, but  as we have seen in recent years, the ideological views of activist judges often carry the day.  However, it’s also possible to put these issues on the ballot and let the voters decide. While not easy and not a slam dunk, the public does have the power to overrule the politicians.

In Maryland, a statewide ballot question (veto referendum) can’t create new laws, but it can repeal ones that were recently enacted. To get a referendum on the ballot requires 3 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the preceding election. This means 69,135 validated and signed petitions would be required to get the referendum on the ballot and have Marylanders vote on the repeal of the sanctuary law, a truly attainable number. 

The catch in Maryland is the time crunch. Under Article XVI of the state constitution, a third of the required number of petition signatures must be received by the Secretary of State before June 1 of next year, and the remainder by June 30.  With the tight timeframe, it would be very helpful for Gov. Hogan to quickly show strong support for a possible referendum.  He has a strong statewide job approval  rating.  In addition, the legislature overrode his veto of a bill he described as a “dangerous precedent.” His early efforts would be important to attaining the number of validated signatures needed for the referendum to qualify for the ballot.

To get an amendment to the New York City Charter placed on the ballot requires valid signatures from 10 percent of the total number of registered voters in the city who cast votes for governor in the last election.  Once the requisite signatures are gathered, the petition would be presented to the city council.  The council can then choose to adopt it rather than requiring it to be placed on the ballot.  If the city council doesn’t adopt the petition, the signatures of an additional 5 percent of registered voters must be gathered to qualify it for the ballot. Since slightly over two million votes were cast for governor in New York City in 2018, just over 200,000 signatures would need to be gathered to present the petition to the council.  If the council doesn’t adopt the petition (which is the likely scenario since it passed non-citizen voting 33-14 in the first place), an additional 100,000 signatures would be needed. 

While these numbers sound huge, there are roughly 700,000 registered Republican voters  in New York City. Moreover, given that nine Democrat members of the city council also voted against the non-citizen voting bill, there would undoubtedly be many eager supporters among the city’s more than 2.3 million registered Democrats.  Even the pro-amnesty former Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently opposed allowing foreign nationals to vote. 

Both these fights aren’t guaranteed victories, but they are winnable. 

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