Libertarian Party Sues State on Ballot Access

    The Libertarian Party has sued the state in federal court, challenging two aspects of Maryland’s ballot access laws.

    Maryland law requires small political parties — all those other than the Democrats and Republicans — to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1 percent of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters. In 2014 the Libertarians reached the 1 percent goal, but in 2018 they fell short, with their gubernatorial nominee Shawn Quinn netting 0.6 percent.

    Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures. But the state’s records already show that there are more than 22,000 registered Libertarians in Maryland, and the party is asking the court to extend their party recognition for another four years without requiring the party to spend on a signature-gathering effort.

    “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,” the party says in a court document filed on Dec. 27 by the Libertarians’ attorney, Mark Grannis.

    In addition, the lawsuit also challenges the standards the state uses to validate and count petition signatures. The party notes that petition signatures are sometimes rejected even when elections officials have confirmed the validity of the registration information if the signed name doesn’t completely match the full name of the registered voter.

    The Libertarians use Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) as an example, because he often signs documents as “Larry Hogan” rather than using his full name.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.