Below is a post from Ballot Access News on the Maryland Libertarian Party’s appeal to the US Fourth Circuit Court hearing on January 29, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia:
On January 29, the Fourth Circuit heard Johnston v Lamone, 19-1783. This is the Maryland Libertarian case, in which the party argues that because it has approximately 22,000 registered members, there is no point in requiring it collect 10,000 signatures to get back on the ballot. Another issue in the case is the Maryland law that won’t count signatures if the middle initial is missing from the petition even though it is on the voter registration form. Listen to the 39 minute argument using this link.
The three judges are G. Steven Agee, Albert Diaz, and Pamela Harris. The judges seemed inclined to rule against the party on the main issue. They have a strong feeling that a voter registration into a party is not meaningful, especially if the voter registered into the party some time ago. Judge Harris suggested an example of a college student at a frat party having registered Libertarian at a young age, and then forgetting that he or she made that choice. The attorney for the Libertarian Party tried to explain that voters do have an interest in updating their party affiliation, because they know, or should know, that they can’t vote in the upcoming presidential primaries if they are still registered into a minor party. But that seemed to fall on deaf ears. The petition must be completed within a two-year period, and the judges all seemed to feel that a petition signature is more meaningful than a registration, because it is recent. The attorney for the Libertarian Party tried to explain that a signature on a petition means very little, and that probably the vast majority of people who sign petitions for a party don’t really agree with it, but they are signing because of a belief that every party that is making a serious attempt deserves to be on the ballot.
The judges did question the state (at the 21:54 mark) about the policy that a petition signature is invalid if the middle initial is missing, but the state argued that issue is not now ripe, and wouldn’t be ripe until after a petition is submitted and rejected.