Jane Doe v. Montgomery County Board of Elections

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Jane Doe v. Montgomery County Board of Elections is a post-certification signature challenge lawsuit filed in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2008.

In the case, a court disqualified the Montgomery County Gender Identity Referendum (2008) on the basis of allegations about how signatures were collected.

The legal reasoning used in Jane Doe was later used by another county to invalidate signatures that had been collected in the hopes of qualifying the Turf Valley Grocery Store Veto Referendum, 2009.

Requirements governing signatures

The decision says:

Section 6-203 governs the process of signing a referendum petition and validating signatures on a referendum petition. The plain meaning of the words "shall" and "requirements" in [section]6- 203 reflect that the statutory provisions require that the voter must sign his or her name "as it appears on the statewide voter registration lists or the individual's surname of registration and at least one full given name and the initials of any other names." The provisions are mandatory, not suggestive.


Here, the County Board argued, nevertheless, that the plain language of [section]6-203, governing validation, was not dispositive because the entire section was rendered ambiguous by the interaction of it with [section]6-207, dealing with verification.


The verification provision, however, does not render the "validation" provision ambiguous; validation is a distinct step in the process that must occur before a signature can be verified. The purpose of validation, relating to whether the signature is sufficient, is to "provide additional means by which fraudulent or otherwise improper signatures upon a referendum petition may be detected," see Barnes, 236 Md. at 571-72, while the purpose of signature verification, relating to the existence of registration of the voter and the signature count, is to "ensure that the name of the individual who signed the petition is listed as a registered voter." [section]6-207. Because the two provisions are distinct, "shall" does not mean anything other than mandatory.


As it applies to referendum petitions, the mandatory signature requirements of [section]6-203(a)(1) are not unduly burdensome, requiring a signer to provide only a surname, one full given name, the initials of any other names, the signer's address and date of signing.

See also

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