Libertarian Party of Maryland Returns to Legislature for Ballot Access Reform

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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.