Richard Winger of Ballot Access News reports that Maryland Senate Bill 1032, a bill to straighten out one of the stranger wrinkles of Maryland’s elections laws, will get a hearing next week before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. The text is available here or here, but really it’s very simple: Current law automatically renews a political party’s official recognition (and the ballot access that goes with it) if more than 1% of the state’s registered voters choose to affiliate with that party. SB 1032 would replace the 1% threshold (which equates to about 37,084 voters right now) with a threshold of 10,000.
This is great news, and not only for smaller or newer political parties. SB 1032 is also great news for Maryland voters who will enjoy more choice at the polls, and for Maryland taxpayers who will no longer have to pay for the enormous waste of state resources that our current election law requires.
To understand the importance of SB 1032, it helps to know what happens to a recognized political party that fails to reach the 1% threshold at the end of any four-year election cycle. That party can regain its official recognition by filing a petition signed by 10,000 registered voters, regardless of party affiliation. Collecting 10,000 signatures is a lot harder than it sounds, because state law requires voters to print and sign their names in very specific ways that often do not match the signatures or names they use in daily life. For example, “Martin O’Malley” on a petition would not qualify as a valid signature; it would need to be “Martin H. O’Malley,” even though the Governor doesn’t even need to use that middle initial when he signs legislation. That and other traps for the unwary mean that, in practice, a small political party may need to spend $50,000 to collect enough “raw” signatures to be sure that at least 10,000 will be deemed valid. And state and local elections officials don’t particularly enjoy flyspecking the petitions for compliance, which of course they do at substantial cost to the taxpayers.
But apart from the waste of time and expense, consider the situation of, well, the Libertarian Party of Maryland, with 13,313 registered voters as of January 31, 2014. Under current law, because we have fewer than 37,084 registered Libertarian voters, we would need to collect signatures from 10,000 registered voters who support the Libertarian Party’s right to exist. But the state’s own records already show that 13,313 support our right to exist so much that they themselves registered as Libertarians. Asking us to circulate a petition to prove that we have the support of at least 10,000 voters is just silly when the state can press a button and print out a list of 13,313 registered voters who have already told the state they support us. And because the 10,000 signatures can come from voters of any party affiliation or no affiliation at all, a petition signed by 10,000 voters of whom relatively few will be Libertarians actually demonstrates far less political support within the state than our 10,000 registered voters do. Requiring the petition under these circumstances isn’t just wasteful and pointless; it’s a wasteful and pointless obstacle to voting rights. It’s the kind of wasteful and pointless obstacle that might well be unconstitutional.
(By the way, if you’re wondering who represents you in the General Assembly, you can find out here.)
Shawn Quinn, the Libertarian candidate for Governor and Lorenzo Gaztanaga, Libertarian candidate for Lt. Governor, will hold a meet and greet in Solomons on March 22 at noon. Joining them will be Peggy O’Donnell, who has announced her candidacy for the Board of County Commissioners of Calvert County. If you are in Southern Maryland, this would be a great chance to meet the candidates, ask questions, and show your support. The meet & greet is being held at the Calvert Library Southern Branch, 13920 HG Trueman Rd. Solomons, MD 20688 (the library is not sponsoring the program). For more information on Shawn’s campaign, you can visit his website at: http://citizen4quinn.org
Maryland Libertarian Leo Dymowski, who is seeking the party’s nomination to run for state Attorney General, has been busy–and people are noticing. The Quinton Report carried this feature yesterday, and the Baltimore Sun‘s Brian Griffiths highlighted Dymowski’s run for the AG slot as part of a “Libertarian Renaissance” in the Free State. He also recently appeared on Carla Howell’s Internet radio show, Libertarians Working for You. You can learn more about Leo Dymowski’s campaign at his website, vote4leo.org.
Baltimore’s police department gets a shout-out in this rational and realistic reminder from J.D. Tuccille about the importance of watching the watchers. As Tuccille writes after recounting some family experience with police corruption in New York, “Like many things in life, there’s probably no perfect fix. But, so long as we have police forces, we’re going to have a problem with police who abuse their positions and succumb to corruption.” And Tuccille is also right to point out that the dangers of corruption are particularly strong when the law tries to stop voluntary transactions between consenting adults: “Asking police officers to suppress highly profitable activities where there’s money to be had just for looking the other way is just begging for trouble.”
That’s all true, and the problem reaches far beyond police departments. The same danger arises with government economic regulation, whether we’re talking about licensing decisions made by establishment-oriented bureaucrats or nakedly protectionist statutes passed by state legislatures or bank bailouts passed by Congress. Power attracts influence. Wherever government power affects how much money people can make, the people affected by the laws will spend money (sometimes a lot of money) trying to control government power. Some people who recognize this think the solution is to “get the money out of politics.” What Libertarians understand is that it’s far better to limit the political power that attracts all that money in the first place.
The remaining documents and filing fee are due by August 4, and can be mailed to the BOE.
If you are running for a county office, the Declaration Of Intent must be filed at your county Board of Election office: