Maryland LP challenges law requiring 10,000 signatures despite having over 22,000 registered voters

Posted on Updated on

Below is a press release issued by the Maryland Libertarian Party on January 2, 2019:

The Maryland Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 27, alleging that two aspects of the state’s ballot access laws are unconstitutional as applied.  The Libertarians are asking the court to extend their party recognition for another four years without requiring the Party to spend huge sums of money gathering information the State already has in its official records.

Maryland law requires smaller parties—all those other than the Democrats and Republicans—to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1% of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.  In 2014 the Libertarians became the first smaller party in Maryland to reach the 1% goal, but in 2018 they fell short.  Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures—even though the state’s own records already show that there are 22,338 registered Libertarians.

“The state’s interest in ensuring that there is a significant modicum of support within Maryland for the Libertarian Party is simply not advanced one iota by requiring Maryland’s 22,000 Libertarians to petition their non-Libertarian neighbors for permission to participate in the political process,” say the plaintiffs in their complaint.

In addition, the lawsuit also challenges the standards the State uses to validate and count petition signatures.  In past petition drives, the State has refused to count thousands of signatures even after positively identifying the registered voters who signed them, if the signatures do not exactly match the form of the voter’s name shown in the voter registration records. For example, the registration of the lead plaintiff in the case is listed as Robert S. Johnston lll. If Mr. Johnston were to sign a petition as Bob Johnston, Robert Johnston, Robert S. Johnston, or Robert Johnston lll, the signature would be invalidated even if the State treated the signature as valid for other purposes, such as updating Mr. Johnston’s address.  Even the signature Gov. Hogan affixes to legislation would be disqualified, because he signs “Larry Hogan” rather than “Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr.”

Johnston and the Libertarian Party of Maryland are represented by Mark Grannis of Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis LLP, located in Washington, DC.

The case is Johnston v. Lamone (1:18cv-3988) (D. Md.).

###

More coverage on this lawsuit at Ballot Access News.

Lawsuit mentioned on Maryland Matters.