When is the Maryland Libertarian Primary, and Who’s Running?

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fsp_ballotaccessGoogle 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.

Maryland law provides at least four different ways for candidates to get on the general election ballot in November.  The Libertarian Party of Maryland nominates candidates by a 3/5 vote of our party’s State Central Committee, as provided in Article VII of our Constitution and Bylaws.  This is the default method state law prescribes for all parties, except those that are required to hold primary elections.  Md. Elec. Law § 4-102(f).

Primary elections are required only for candidates of “principal political parties,” a term that is defined to include only the “majority party” and the “principal minority party.”  Md. Elec. Law § 1-101(kk).  There are only two “principal political parties.”  The “majority party” is the party to which the incumbent Governor belongs, as long as he belongs to one of the “principal political parties.”  Md. Elec. Law § 1-101(dd).  And the “principal minority party” is the principal political party whose candidate for Governor received the second-highest number of votes in the last gubernatorial election.   Md. Elec. Law § 1-101(jj).  This is the reason why only Republicans and Democrats nominate candidates by primary election.  I sometimes complain about the fact that they are essentially two private clubs who, at great public expense, are tying up a good many of the state’s schools and churches to select their nominees.  But the fact is that state law requires the two “principal political parties” to use primary elections.  Md. Elec. Law § 8-202.

Now, if you’ve been paying close attention, you may find yourself wondering:  What happens if we elect Shawn Quinn as our first Libertarian governor?  Would the Libertarian Party become one of the “principal political parties” and thereafter be required to use primaries?  Well, that’s a bit of a puzzler.  Look closely at the definition of “majority party”:

(dd)  “Majority party” means the political party to which the incumbent Governor belongs, if the incumbent Governor is a member of a principal political party.  If the incumbent Governor is not a member of one of the two principal political parties, “majority party” means the principal political party whose candidate for Governor received the highest number of votes of any party candidate at the last preceding general election.

Md. Elec. Law § 1-101(dd) (emphasis added).  This was evidently drafted to accommodate the election of an independent Governor unaffiliated with any party, but it dissolves into circularity when the Governor comes from a party other than the Big Two.  Quinn’s election would not make the LP the “majority party” in Maryland because Quinn himself is not a member of a “principal political party.”  Nor would the LP be the “majority party” by virtue of having the candidate who “received the highest number of votes of any party candidate,” because that prong of the definition also requires that the “majority party” be, first and foremost, a “principal political party.”

None of this will matter if Shawn Quinn finishes second; in that case, the LP Maryland would become the “principal minority party” and therefore one of the two “principal political parties”; that’s easy enough.  But if Shawn Quinn were to win, the statutory definition of “majority party” would fall to pieces.  Let’s help him win anyway!