Activist Robin Ficker, who led a petition drive to impose term limits on local politicians, isn’t giving up his quest to defend his signature-collecting skills in court.
Ficker, a lawyer, led a drive to ask voters to decide whether the Montgomery County executive and County Council members should be limited to three terms. The question will appear on November’s ballot.
But the Ficker initiative led to a court challenge from former Rockville city councilman Tom Moore, who objected to the verification by the county Board of Elections of many signatures Ficker collected. Moore sued, naming the county and state elections boards as defendants, but not Ficker.
Arguing during a Montgomery County Circuit Court hearing on Friday, Ficker said he should be a defendant because he knew the practices he and his volunteers used to collect the signatures.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg said he would rule on Ficker’s request after a conference call Wednesday morning with participants of the case, his office confirmed Monday morning.
Earlier in the day, Greenberg had emailed the participants in the suit that he didn’t think the case needed another defendant. Ficker’s interests will be protected adequately by the other parties, he wrote. The judge also said he was worried about delays in the proceedings.
“Obviously, Mr. Ficker may be called as a witness by any of the parties, and to that extent he will participate in the proceedings. In my view, simply being an important witness does not mean that one should be made a party,” Greenberg wrote.
Ultimately, the judge said he would decide on Ficker’s role after Moore has filed a more detailed complaint in the case, citing his specific issues with the elections board verification.
“Once that information has been provided, the court will be in a better position to know whether to grant his motion to intervene,” said Kevin Karpinski, the lawyer representing the county elections board.
Ficker collected nearly 18,000 signatures to petition a change in Montgomery County Charter. The county Board of Elections verified 12,573 of them; 10,000 were required to place the issue on the November ballot.
In his suit, Moore claims the board verified signatures that didn’t pass muster. Some names lacked signatures, he said, and in some, through the color of the ink or penmanship, it is clear someone else provided the date of the signature.
Greenberg said during Friday’s hearing case law supports others providing dates to petitions, according to Ficker.
Moore countered: “We think it’s important to note that somebody else is the one who filled in a lot of information on these sheets.”
Meanwhile, the ballots will be printed with the ballot question intact. If the state waited for the outcome of the lawsuit, there would be too little time to print ballots to send them to military serving overseas. Moore said he found the argument persuasive, and withdrew his request for an injunction to prevent the ballots from being printed.
If he wins the case, the elections board will not bother to count whatever votes are marked, Moore said.
Moore said Sunday lawyer Jonathan Shurberg will represent him in court.
Also on Sunday, Ficker said he would challenge some of the signatures that the board refused to verify.
“I believe there are many more than 12,573 that are valid,” Ficker said.