After predicting about 40,000 signatures, organizers of a petition drive opposing in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants turned in more than 62,000 on Tuesday night.
Tuesday was the deadline for the group to submit at least 18,579 valid signatures in their attempt to force a referendum on the new law in the 2012 general election.
The second and final deadline is June 30, when they must have at least 55,736 valid signatures.
Organizers are trying to gather many more signatures than the minimums, expecting that some will be invalidated.
Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, the petition drive leader, said Tuesday that his group planned to turn in about 40,000 signatures at around 9 p.m.
Instead, at 11:17 p.m., they submitted 62,496 signatures, which “far exceeds our expectations,” Parrott said in a news release Wednesday.
The boost puts the group closer to its goal of collecting 100,000 signatures by the final deadline.
Parrott and Del. Patrick L. McDonough, R-Baltimore/Harford, are working together on the drive, with volunteers in all 23 counties and Baltimore City.
Parrott estimated that about half of the signatures have come through www.mdpetitions.com, a website set up to shorten and simplify the process.
In a voicemail message, Donna Duncan, the director of the Maryland State Board of Elections’ Election Management Division, confirmed the number of signatures the group listed on paperwork it filed Tuesday.
She said there were 17,460 pages of signatures.
The state board will distribute the signatures to local boards of elections to review and verify the legitimacy of the first round of signatures by June 20.
Duncan said Tuesday that the state board plans to post an update each business day on the number of valid and invalid signatures.