Judge rejects signatures in police union ballot drive

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Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge rejected the county police union's attempt to restore its full collective bargaining rights through a measure on the November ballot.

The Fraternal Order of Police has appealed.

The union submitted 40,800 signatures to the Montgomery County Board of Elections challenging county legislation that revoked the union's power of "effects bargaining," the ability to bargain almost any decision made by police management. The Board of Elections certified 34,828 signatures, 4,594 more than required to get the matter on the November ballot.

Circuit Court Judge Eric Johnson ruled that the Board of Elections improperly validated 4,673 of the signatures, meaning that the union has 79 fewer signatures than it needs.

The measure will not appear on November's ballot unless the union wins the appeal it has filed.

The thrown-out signatures appeared on pages where the people hired by the union to collect names gave inaccurate addresses. Because the addresses were required by law as part of affidavits meant to certify that the signatures on those pages were collected legally -- that the people signing the petition claimed to be registered Montgomery County voters and knew what they were signing -- the inaccuracies invalidated all the pages on which they appeared, Johnson explained.

The union had argued that an incorrect address on an affidavit should not disenfranchise the thousands of county voters who signed the petition. This argument, however, "would start the descent down a slippery slope," Johnson wrote in his opinion.

"What else in the statute could be overlooked? Should a missing portion of the [petition circulator's] name be overlooked? Or the age of the [circulator]? Should petitions be accepted if the circulators intentionally [avoid] information that they know not to be true?" Johnson asked. "The answer should be and the court's finding is a resounding no!"

Though the county had challenged an additional 6,552 signatures for a variety of reasons, including issues like voters forgetting to put dates, putting the wrong dates or giving names that didn't match their official voter records, the rest of the challenges were withdrawn or rejected by the court.

"This is about the will of the voter being thwarted by elected official[s] and bureaucrats with access to unlimited taxpayer money," said Fraternal Order of Police Secretary Jane Milne.

But the county isn't giving up.

"Effects bargaining is a bad idea," said county spokesman Patrick Lacefield. "That's why it was repealed by the council, and we're going to continue to fight against it."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner