Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Evidence Is Heard; Judge Will Rule Soon

The judge has seen the evidence and heard the arguments, and will issue a judgment soon in the lawsuit to block a referendum on Montgomery County's new gender-identity nondiscrimination bill. The County Council voted unanimously last year to adopt the new law, the County Executive signed it, and then a group of "conservatives" gathered petition signatures to get a referendum to rescind it. Advocate groups assembled a team of volunteers to go through the petition signatures, and sued the county Board of Elections when numerous irregularities were found.

Today two kinds of things were debated. First, the group that submitted the petitions (Citizens for Responsible Whatever, or CRW) had been told by the elections board that they needed 25,001 verified signatures in order to get the issue on the November ballot. That number was derived, following the law, by taking five percent of the number of registered voters in the county. Except it turned out that there are more than 50,000 voters who are registered but were not counted in the total because they are "inactive," that is, they have not voted in the past two general elections and when the Board sent them a letter asking if they were still residents they did not respond to it. Five percent of the number of actual registered voters -- active plus inactive -- would be more than the CRW gathered. Further, it appears that nearly 800 of the petition signers were in fact inactive voters, so this is a nontrivial population. The plaintiffs in the case then argue that if inactive voters are going to be part of the numerator of the ratio -- that is, if you are going to count them as "registered voters" and legitimate petition signers -- then they should be part of the denominator as well. Or, to put it more simply, where the law says they needed five percent of registered voters, the Board of Elections should have required ... five percent of registered voters. Not five percent of active voters, which is what they used.

Jonathan Shurberg, representing the plaintiffs, noted that counting inactive voters when they sign the petition, but not counting them in the total from which the proportion is calculated, amounts to disenfranchisement of individuals who oppose the measure. When the "no vote" is not counted, the Board of Elections "only franchises the activist," he said. He made a further point that Montgomery County is a "one-party town." There is not, and has not been for years, any Republican elected official at any level in Montgomery County. "Inactive" voter status is defined in part by whether someone votes in the general election, and voting in the primaries is not considered. Lots of voters only vote in the primary elections here, knowing that the Democratic candidate will win anyway, so it only matters who the party selects.

The Board of Elections lawyer, Kevin Karpinsky, tried to argue that the plaintiffs should not be able to bring up this subject, since it was not mentioned in their original complaint. Karpinsky asserted that there was a 10-day deadline for filing, and the complaining citizens missed it. I'll spoil it for you: the judge didn't agree. Judge Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg said that the complaint was filed on time, this new argument regarding the number of registered voters is really just a new "theory," not a new complaint.

I will not predict the judge's decision, but one thing seemed obvious to everyone in the courtroom: the Board of Elections screwed up. They told the CRW they needed so-many signatures, and the CRW went out and lied to people to get them to sign and they got that number, and now it turns out they were given bad information. The BOE gave them the number for "active," not "registered" voters, as the law requires. For one second I felt sorry for the bigots. The fact is, they got about as many signatures as they possibly could, if they needed more they would have simply failed. But they had their victory party, they took their smiling photographs, they said "We did it!" in big letters on their web site, and they didn't do it. It is very clear that the CRW did not have the required number of signatures, based on the unambiguous wording of the law. They did not have five percent of registered voters. The judge may decide otherwise, he may decide that the Board's word is the law, but I think everybody in the peanut gallery saw that they made a mess of this.

Then they argued about the signatures themselves. This got tedious, as Shurberg went through page after page of these things, showing where people signed for each other, people didn't print their name or printed a different name from what they signed, where the circulator signed for people -- he showed one example where there was a blank row with nothing but a squiggle through the name, signature, address, and birthdate fields, and the Board of Elections wrote "OK" in the margin next to it! The Board's attorney tried to argue that there weren't very many bad petitions, but really, there are. I don't see it in my notes, but I think Shurberg said that about forty percent of them should be thrown out.

The real issue is, what is the Board of Elections supposed to do? There was some discussion of "validating" versus "verifying," you know how lawyers are (signatures need both verification and validation, if you want to know). The Board says they are supposed to make sure the names on the petitions represent registered voters. The plaintiffs say the Board is supposed to use common sense to identify places where the law was broken. The state and county laws are very clear, regarding the information that must be present; it is strict, but the law does say you have to sign and print your full name, you have to give your address and birthdate. The judge said he didn't like the law, and I can see why, it does seem bad to throw out a signature because the guy didn't include his middle initial, but as Shurberg noted, the state General Assembly passed this law, there has been no challenge or movement to change it, and there is no Constitutional issue that the court can rule on. The judge's decision should interpret the law as it is written, even if he doesn't agree with it.

One point that Karpinsky repeatedly made is worth mentioning. The judge quoted this too, I think they had discussed it in chambers extensively. Karpinsky said, "It is not the Board of Elections duty to do the bidding of the CRG [CRW]." He cannot be responsible for defending or rationalizing the behavior of the petition circulators, which as we have seen was ... irresponsible, to put it mildly. He was in court to defend the Board of Elections, which was accused of not scrutinizing the petitions that the CRW gathered, and didn't want to get backed into the corner, defending the unscrupulous behavior of the anti-transgender group. Several times he referred to his belief that the Board has to assume that petition gatherers are following the law, the Board doesn't have the resources to scrutinize every signature. But with that approach you can have a situation where somebody just writes down some names of voters, all in the same signature -- somebody has to check, and the law is not unclear, the Board of Elections is supposed to do that, of course. You sort of feel sorry for the Board of Elections, they never dealt with people like our MoCo shower-nuts before, they think you have to assume that people are honest.

I should mention that Channel Seven's anti-gay, anti-transgender reporter Greta Kreuz was in the courtroom and interviewed people during a break. She is the only journalist in the area to actually report the CRW's man-in-a-dress hoax as news -- her name comes up here fairly often. Maybe she wanted to make up for her previous offenses by running a story that talks about why one of America's most persecuted minorities needs to have the same rights as the rest of us, and how a tiny handful of lying religious hypocrites has fought to re-legalize discrimination. I wouldn't hold my breath. Watch Channel Seven News tonight if you want to find out. I probably won't.

A major issue here for the plaintiff is the "circulator's affadavit," a statement on the petition form where the circulator swears that they witnessed the signatures. In many -- many -- cases, Shurberg noted, it would have been impossible for the circulator to witness the signature, for instance where somebody signed for somebody else. They swear they saw Joe Blow sign, but it's Joe Blow's wife's handwriting: it would have been impossible for them to see Mr. Blow sign the petition.

The case comes down to this: the Board of Elections doesn't think it should be their job to check for fraud on the petitions, and the plaintiffs believe the Board should follow the law. There was a lot of technical talk, legal wordsmithing, but it is clear that the law calls for the Board to make a reasonable judgment about whether signatures are valid, and it's clear they didn't really do that. It's all a matter of degree, they obviously can't call everybody whose name appears there and ask them if they really signed the petition, and confirm their middle initial or whatever. On the other hand, there are lots of obvious things, names with the same handwriting, information missing or wrong, and they went ahead and okayed it. Is it enough to call off the referendum? We should know in a few days, at most; there is time pressure because the Board of Elections needs to know what to print on the November ballots.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From today's Washington Post:

Petition Challenge Focuses on Count Of Inactive Voters

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 10, 2008; B02

Gay and transgender rights advocates said yesterday that Montgomery County's Board of Elections miscalculated the number of signatures required to challenge a law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.

The argument, played out in Montgomery County Circuit Court, is a new wrinkle in the legal effort to block a referendum on an anti-discrimination measure the County Council passed last fall.

At issue yesterday was the formula used to determine the number of signatures required to put the measure on the November ballot and, more broadly, whether Montgomery voters will have the opportunity to accept or reject the law designed to protect transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Montgomery joined 13 states, the District, Baltimore and 90 other jurisdictions last year in banning discrimination against transgender people. Opponents, led by the group Citizens for Responsible Government, blocked the law from taking effect by collecting enough signatures to force a referendum on the matter. The group says it is concerned about how the law would apply to facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms.

In response, Equality Maryland -- the gay and transgender rights group -- challenged the validity of signatures on the petition calling for a vote. Elections officials set the mark for certification at 25,000 signatures, or 5 percent of registered voters. That figure did not include registered voters listed as "inactive" because they have not regularly participated in elections.

Jonathan Shurberg, an attorney for Equality Maryland, said in a court filing that the county should have included 52,000 inactive voters in its total, raising the number of signatures needed to reach the 5 percent mark. By that calculation, he said, opponents fell about 700 names short.

If elections officials accepted the signatures of inactive voters on the petition, as they did, Shurberg argued they should also have counted inactive voters in the overall total.

Board of Elections attorney Kevin Karpinski said yesterday that the challenge to the formula is invalid because it was raised for the first time during the trial, instead of during the 10-day window the law provides. He also said that earlier court rulings give elections officials discretion in determining whether to include inactive voters.

Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg appeared swayed by Shurberg's argument that state elections officials should have directed local officials to count inactive voters as well as active ones. Citing a Court of Appeals decision, Greenberg said the definition of "registered voter" has to include inactive voters. "I'm sort of surprised that the state board just disregarded this. This is very clear," he said.

But Greenberg also acknowledged the dilemma of telling Citizens for Responsible Government, the group that gathered the signatures, that it had done "everything right, except you got the wrong number from the people who were presumably in the know."

During a hearing last month, Greenberg rejected a challenge to the first of two batches of signatures, saying the gay and transgender rights advocates missed a critical deadline. His ruling narrowed the case to the validity of 6,200 other signatures.

Shurberg highlighted dozens of signatures yesterday that he said are defective and should be thrown out. In some instances, names were printed instead of signed, and in others, it appeared that one person had signed two names.

Greenberg seemed warm, however, to Karpinski's assertion that state law does not require elections officials to act as handwriting experts but to verify that signers are indeed registered voters. Greenberg is expected to issue a written opinion in the coming weeks.

July 10, 2008 8:32 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

But here's the problem with the Post article, right at the start; "Gay and transgender rights advocates said ..." No, it's not that somebody "said" this. The fact is, the Board used the wrong number. This isn't an allegation, or he-said-she-said situation, it's a fact, but the corporate media are afraid to say it out loud. The Board of Elections gave the CRW the wrong target to shoot at: that's a news story, it isn't something somebody said, it is clear they did that. It's like if they wrote, "Witnesses said Joe Blow was hit by a car," when Joe Blow was obviously hit by a car, he's got tire tracks down his back and he's lying in the street. We have had now eight years of this, people lying and the press saying something like "Democrats say somebody lied..." They can't tell you what happened, they can only tell what somebody said happened, and that means anybody who can get their attention can create reality for newspaper-reading Americans.


July 10, 2008 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like Jesse agrees with Ralph:

"Jackson's comments Sunday came in response to a question from a fellow guest during a break from taping "Fox & Friends." The guest asked about speeches on morality Obama has given at black churches.

"Jackson replied that Obama's speeches come off as speaking down to black people and that there were other important issues to be addressed in the community, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.""

July 10, 2008 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The fact is, the Board used the wrong number. This isn't an allegation, or he-said-she-said situation, it's a fact, but the corporate media are afraid to say it out loud. The Board of Elections gave the CRW the wrong target to shoot at: that's a news story, it isn't something somebody said, it is clear they did that."

Wrong again, Jim!

July 10, 2008 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you know how to read and write or just copy and paste?

July 10, 2008 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all -

In all fairness to Greta Cruz and WJLA on this story, which was in part aired last night - and can also be found here:

WJLA story

She personally treated me with perfect professionalism and tact, was politely engaging, asked intelligent and very directly pertinent questions, and was very easy to exchange with overall.

After seeing the story, i would have to give them a good solid A+ for making what appears to be a truly objective effort in this mess of all messes.

It was nice to see the kinds of potentially fraudulent activities (many of which i had personally witnessed on numerous occasions, during both the signatures gathering phase, and during the reviews phase - good to see it come out in irrefutable black and white - where people in the rest of the observing public can actually see what utterly disingenuous lengths these supposedly "moral" ethicists will, and have onbviuosly gone to in order to enforce their own personal dogmas on every other living person in the world.



July 10, 2008 1:41 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Thank you Maryanne, I thought Greta's story was good, too -- I'm composing a post about it right now.


July 10, 2008 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly - After reviewing it again - i have to pull back on the A+ grade from a personal standpoint - i noticed a couple of things that i had not before.

First one being that i was referred to as a transgender "person", when in fact, transgender "woman" would be the civil and appropriate referral term at this point in my life.

I am, in fact, female by all clinical psychiatric standards, as well as the DMV medical advisory board of my own home state.

One of the points that Greta took while we were talking and she was asking me questions off camera, was about the supposed "safety" concerns - i gave her one good point and it literally stopped her cold and she said to me "that's a good point" and wrote it in her notepad.

Here it is: So - just because this law has been passed, the most predatory male demographic is just going to suddenly don wigs, makeup, and girl's clothing etc, and rush to the women's rooms to take advantage of this new law being put into effect, right ?

She agrees this is part of the basis for public concern, yes -

so i said - ok - so therefore, when these kinds of men engage in these horrificly abusive and illegal activites, by almost all records and all known accounts, they go about their evil goals in what must be a very low-key and under-the-radar means, in order to NOT GET CAUGHT so that they can continue in these illegal and disgusting behaviors - right ?


So now, just because this law has been passed, they are all SUDDENLY going to change their ENTIRE M.O. of typical behaviors, and begin to engage in some of the potentially highest risk "behaviors" which, as men, they cannot possibly pull off to begin with, or will raise the percentage possibilities of them immediately getting caught exponentially...

This is a ridiculous and hpothetically fearmongered distortion of a half-truth, that has nothing to do with the reality of the life of a woman like myself in any way whatsoever -

All she could do was > Blink < in surprised agreement that i had just made a very highly salient point, and said "That's a really good point", which she then specifically noted in her book.


Most Sincerely,


July 10, 2008 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like Jesse agrees with Ralph:

Looks like Jesse's outburst could be one more unexpected boost on Obama's march to the White House.

Barack Obama could not have asked for a better turn-of-events. When Jesse Jackson whispered into a live "Fox & Friends" microphone that he'd like to "cut his [Obama's] nuts off," he handed the Illinois Senator a public relations bonanza. Even with all of the ugly historical connotations the of neutering black men back in the bad ol' days (or perhaps precisely because of them), Jackson's generational ire at Obama's insistence that black America step up to plate of personal responsibility is pure gold for the Obama camp.

That's real exciting company you keep, Anon -- Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson. Who'll be the next invitee to your parade of presidential losers, Bob Barr? Mike Huckabee?

July 10, 2008 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for being there Maryanne and going on record. Ms. Kreuz can work on getting that B up to an A next semester.

On the Jesse Jackson story, perhaps Mr. Jackson was quoting General McAuliffe from the seige of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge:

BTW, can anyone tell me how to include automatic links on posts like this one; it would be a useful skill for me to have.


July 10, 2008 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link above was to the Wikipedia article on Anthony McAuliffe.

July 10, 2008 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eight five percent of reporters will look earnestly at you, write down everything you say as if it's the gospel, and bob their heads up and down, as if in complete agreement. They are TRAINED to do that.

The behavior that Greta displayed toward Maryann is in NO way reflective of her true feelings. She could very agree with what Maryanne said -- or very well not. That conversation that Maryann described, however, is NO indicator of Greta Kruz's feelings. She is well seasoned and well practiced at concealing her true feelings during an interview. It is in the reporter's best interests to act as if she agrees with the interviewee.

July 10, 2008 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be very helpful if Jim were to just simply delete the intentinally distractive posts made by anon in the middle of these topics. Interesting that it always comes after anyone has made a most intelligent and effective point of fact or opinion.

It shows just how sickly and completely chicken you really are to face the issues.

This really shows, once again, to what lengths certain people are willing to go to sidetrack the issue and all intelligent dialogue at all costs.

It is a form of utter cowardice, in fact, to post in this way, as opposed to directly addressing what has been posted and directly pertinet to this specific issue.

This person, possibly one of the morally and ethically "correct" local opposition supporters, is being Disingenuoous, rude, and cowardly all at once.

Not only to hide in darkness behind an anon label, AND to intentionally distract from the pertinent dialogue of the issue at hand.

How this can be equated within themselves as any kind of of good manners, much less spiritually "correct", or straightforward and intelligent by any kind of old-fashioned standards of civility, should be apparent to all intelligent readers here.

I wish you well anon.

I hope you stop hiding behing all of your cheap shots and cheap tricks, and just deal, like any real man or woman of true decency and real character should be able to.


Most Sincerely,


July 10, 2008 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"real man or woman of true decency and real character"

Anon isn't a real person, of course; he/she/it is a persona made up by a paid anti-lgbt employee of one of those organizations with which are all too familiar. Either that, or he/she/it is a program designed by one of those people, IMHO. I'm not even sure if he/she/it passes the Turing Test.

Maryanne, you on the other hand are a very real and brave person who will put herself out in public to work for what she thinks is right. Kudos to you, and keep up the good fight.


July 10, 2008 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maryann -- I don't understand why you are upset. I simply pointed out something to you a simple fact that any seasoned media person would know. No one expects you to be a seasoned media person. Dealing with the media is not rocket science, but there are some very basic rules to remember. And one of them is to never let yourself feel that the reporter is "on your side." At that point, you are more inclined to feel comfortable and become sloppy with your comments. That is when people get into trouble with the media.

If someone, on either side of the issue, had claimed that a reporter agreed with him because of the reporter's body language, I would have counseled with the same advice: don't let a reporter fool you into thinking that he agrees with you. There are only a select group of journalists who have gotten famous by giving their viewpoint, and the guests go on the show knowing what they're up against.

Instead of blasting me, you could just as easily have thanked me for the free PR advice. Companies pay thousands of dollars to public relations' experts to tell their spokespeople exactly what I have just told you. The smartest and most successful executives that I have worked with when training them to deal with the media take advice like this to heart and practice dealing with the press, practice keeping things like this in mind and APPRECIATE the advice!

Now, I have a strong opinion about the substance of what you said to Greta, but I made the decision to keep it to myself, figuring that you'd be offended. Instead, I decided to try to help you...and you responded like this instead. I even said that it could be VERY LIKELY that Greta agreed with you. I made it clear that Greta could have fallen on EITHER SIDE of the issue.

I don't understand your venom here.

July 10, 2008 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about that anon - probably the wrong anon..

You posted as i was responding to the supercilious mass of spamlikegarbage posted by the other anon, whose only defense or offense seems to be to distract and deflect as opposed to talking directly about the issues at hand.

This, at times, makes it all the more tediously difficult for those of us that wish to engage in more direct dialogue..

If that was you, then some of my rhetoric remains. If that was not you, then my sincerest apologies for any misunderstanding. It was purely an honest timing error.

YOUR complete straightforwardness in responding was greatly appreciated, even if i dont entirely agreee with you.

I know the media well - better than many people as a result of years of work in another field more closely media related than cooking...

I agree about the training and the rote execution of what is necessary to connect with people to get the story. That is nothing new to me.

When you personally observe someone's reactions, and have spent a lifetime literally having to closely examine the minutiae of other people's actions and reactions as part of your neccesary radar in social survival skills, and is coupled with a very strong intuitive sense, i therefore can only only give personal witness to my own personal experience.

YOU could be Greta for all i know right now, and indirectly defending your core feelings and values about the real issues.

I have no issue with that either.

I can only speak from my own personal experience with any sense of validity whatsoever, and so therefore that is exactly what i did in that particular (and reasonably brief) narrative of that aspect of my day in that moment with her.

I was refreshingly surprised to gauge an unexpectedly "genuine"reaction to what i had told her.

I found that entirely satisfying and personally rewarding in many ways.

One of which as maybe, just maybe, i had succeded in getting only one - only one, mind you, single salient point across - that maybe no one else had brought into her personal consideration before in that manner or concept.

MY PERCEPTION of witnessing her initial reaction to my point, was indicative of this based on my own personal experience of reading others' reactions as part of my own life struggle to survive in what has been an extremely hostile environment most of my life.

That is something that i am naturally skilled at doing in many ways, and most often completely and entirely defy all common stereotypical misperceptive boxes that many people still wish to keep people like myself locked in.

I am blessed with VERY good communications abilities and often am able to use them effectively to highlight distinctive aspects of situations that may not have come to light in exactly those ways before.

I appreciate your feedback, and can tell in your earnestness of defense, that it was well given.

I could have done better in all kinds of ways yesterday, and accept that as part of the necessary growth and humility in honest self-critique.

I truly thank you for your straightforwardness,

Most Sincerely,


July 10, 2008 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And - Anon - i already know for sure that i would actually enjoy just talking with you - both just as a person - a very intelligent, mature person, clearly a staunch professional, and fellow human being.

That's what came directly from my heart after re-reading what you said.

I would welcome your professional advice anytime, based on what i just saw and heard.

You are more than welcome to contact me directly should you ever so wish, to engage in further personal and highly professional dialogue(s).

You said some things of real value there that i really have taken to heart immediately.

Truly and most respectful thanks thanks, both personally AND professionally.

Kudos to you for keeping it respectable.



July 10, 2008 6:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here's a simple tutorial on how to do it. There's a practice page too.

Once you get the hang of it it really comes in handy. I always like to double check them in the preview, but don’t click directly on them or you'll lose your message. Right click on them and choose “open in new tab” or “open in new window.” In fact that’s usually how I open any hyperlink, so I don’t lose the page I’m already on.

Also, my MS Word program doesn’t make the right kind of “quotes” for it to work properly, as I usually copy and paste my comments from there. If you normally type your comments in the comment box you don’t need to worry about it, but for ease, I typed out the href="" code in the comment box and then pasted that into my Word. So now I just keep one on hand and copy and paste that into the text when needed.

You’ll figure it out. : )

July 10, 2008 7:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry, I meant to address that last one to you Robert.

July 10, 2008 7:56 PM  

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