The petition requirement for Maryland’s Green and Libertarian parties to gain ballot access for the November general election has been slashed in half.
The parties will have until Aug. 3 to turn in 5,000 valid signatures from registered voters, down from the statutory requirement of 10,000.
The state’s leading third parties filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to reduce the requirement late last month, arguing that the state’s springtime stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines made it impossible for them to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The parties had sought to reduce the requirement to 1,000 valid signatures.
A settlement agreement was filed in the court on Friday.
“The Green Party has been on the ballot every year since 2000 in Maryland and with this settlement I am confident we will be on the ballot in 2020,” former Maryland Green Party Chair Andy Ellis, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement.
The Green Party has collected 5,200 signatures so far, and will continue to collect more to account for any signatures that are invalidated by the State Board of Elections.
The state board approved a policy change in late April to allow parties and candidates to collect signatures electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Green Party has launched an online petition and a phone-banking operation and expects to meet the August deadline, incoming co-chair Tim Willard said in a statement.
The Libertarian Party of Maryland has collected about 3,000 signatures so far and hopes to collect another 4,000 before the August deadline, Bob Johnston, the party’s state chair, said.
The party has some petitioners working on the ground now and hopes to add more soon.
The national party is committed to 50-state ballot access for the Libertarian presidential ticket, which will help the party’s cause in Maryland, but getting signatures will still be difficult with most of the large festivals that petitioners used to visit still canceled, Johnston said.
“The people who have been telling us to socially distance, are now telling us to go collect signatures. …It’s really putting us in a bind,” he said.