Our ballot access reform bill receives a hearing this Thursday, March 2nd, before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee. This bill would revise the way parties like the Libertarian Party of Maryland retains its legal status, requiring that we maintain at least 10,000 registered voters. Since we have over 20,000 registered Libertarians and our registrations are growing, we would effectively have guaranteed ballot access for Libertarian candidates to spread the message of liberty if this bill is passed.
What we need from you is to contact your Delegates by email to ask them to support HB 707 as soon as possible, but at least before Thursday the 2nd. Working with our coalition partners in the Coalition for Common Sense Ballot Access, we have developed a sample email that you can use. Follow this TAKE ACTION link to see how to identify your Delegates and their email links, sample language in support of the bill, and a “one-pager” that gives a basic description of the bill.
Note that support for HB 707 has been endorsed by FairVote Action and ballot expert Richard Winger.
Our party is again supporting legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that cures an inconsistency between the standards by which a political party originally qualifies as a recognized party and the standard to maintain recognition. It is this legal standard for party recognition that allows party candidates to be nominated and placed on the ballot, giving Marylanders an important additional choice when voting.
The amendment changes one of the two alternate standards for a party to re-qualify. Instead of requiring 1% of registered voters, the bill would require 10,000 registered voters, matching the petitioning requirement of 10,000 signatures necessary to form a new political party. It is a simple, two-page bill that changes one word.
Currently the LPMD is qualified to place candidates on the ballot through 2018 because our Presidential candidate received over 1% of the total votes cast in Maryland (Gary Johnson received 2.9%). Before that, we retained qualified status because our Gubernatorial candidate, Shawn Quinn, exceeded 1.5% of the vote, the first time a third-party had done this in 44 years. An alternative standard for party re-qualification is that the party have 1% of the total registered voters register as Libertarians as of the end of each year. To our knowledge, no third-party has re-qualified in Maryland through this standard. As of December 31, 2016, the registered voters necessary to reach the 1% threshold was 39,706. As of that date, Libertarians had 19,904 and the Greens 9,263 affiliated voters, so they would not qualify under that standard.
When parties do not re-qualify, they must petition to obtain 10,000 signatures of registered voters in Maryland as if they are starting anew, a time-consuming, laborious, and expensive process. The petitioning process is made more difficult because so many signatures are disqualified on technicalities, so that a party really needs to obtain around 15,000 signatures to ensure success. Our legislation makes sense because if 10,000 registered voters, who are not necessarily libertarian (in fact, most are not) can sign a petition to demonstrate that the party has a sufficient minimum level of support in Maryland, then having 10,000 registered voters affiliated with that party is more than sufficient to demonstrate that support. An affiliated voter has, by definition, demonstrated support for a particular political party. Therefore, the discrepancy between the 10,000-petitioning requirement to form a party and the variable standard of 1% of registered voters should be eliminated by replacing the 1% standard with 10,000 affiliated registrations.
We have helped form the Coalition for Common Sense Ballot Access with the Green Party of Maryland, Constitution Party of Maryland, and the Ujima People’s Progress Party. You can follow the coalition’s work on behalf of this bill on its website, Facebook and Twitter. The Coalition is seeking endorsements for this bill and has obtained its first endorsement from FairVote Action. If you have a relationship with any organizations you think might be willing to endorse this bill, please contact us.
We expect the bill to be filed by the primary sponsor very soon. It will be identical to the bills we supported in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It is with great sadness that we report that Doug McNeil, a long time Libertarian and tireless advocate for improved ballot access and libertarian ideals, passed away on April 2, 2016. Doug was running for Mayor of Baltimore as the Libertarian candidate. A more detailed article about Doug and his impact in Maryland politics will be forthcoming.
Doug passed away from cancer and his death was noted by Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News. We offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Google tells us what people are searching for when they find our site, and recently a growing number of people have found us using search terms related to today’s primary elections. This may strike the party faithful as odd because, well, there is no Maryland Libertarian primary. For those of you who may be new to Libertarian politics, let me explain.
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.)
That’s what we were in 2013. According to year-end figures just released by the Maryland State Board of Elections, the Democrats and Republicans continue to hemorrhage voters while the Libertarian Party continues to grow. We now have 13,131 registered Libertarians within the state–the most ever for a party outside the Democrat-Republican duopoly.