FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
S. Andrew Ellis, Co-Chair, Maryland Green Party
H. Mark Stichel
Astrachan Gunst Thomas, P.C.
Green and Libertarian Parties File Federal Suit Seeking Reduced Signature Requirement For Ballot Access
Baltimore, MD - The Maryland Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Maryland have filed suit in US District Court in Baltimore seeking a reduction in the requirement of signatures for ballot access on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
The suit, filed by H. Mark Stichel of Astrachan Gunst Thomas, P.C., alleges that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines have made it impossible for each party to exercise its First Amendment rights.
Andy Ellis, Co-Chair of the Maryland Green Party, and Bob Johnston, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Maryland, say: “We believe we have a constitutional right to seek to be on the ballot. The COVID-19 State of Emergency has interfered with the exercise of that right. We have asked the Governor to remedy this situation and he has not, so it is time to ask the court to intervene. Giving voters choices is too important to cast aside.”
In an April 30 letter to Governor Larry Hogan and Linda Lamone, Administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections, the Maryland Green Party requested that Governor Hogan suspend the 10,000-signature requirement for recognition as a political party. The letter pointed out that the Maryland Green Party has successfully petitioned to be on the ballot for every election since 2000.The Maryland Green Party has not received a response to this letter.
The Maryland Green Party had collected approximately 5,000 signatures and the Libertarian Party of Maryland had collected approximately 3,000 by early March 2020 when they were forced to suspend signature collection due to the state of emergency and various orders the Governor had issued.
On April 22, 2020, the State Board adopted SBE Policy 2020-01, Temporary Electronic Petition Signature Assistance. This policy does not adequately address the situation created by the pandemic and the Governor’s orders. Electronic solicitation is a weak substitute for in-person solicitation at fairs and festivals and via door-to-door canvassing, which have been how the Maryland Green Party has obtained signatures in current and past petition drives.
Even if all COVID-19 emergency orders were lifted immediately, which will not happen, it is very unlikely that public interaction as it existed prior to the Governor’s March 11 declaration , will resume fully by July 6, the deadline for party candidates to submit a declaration of intent to appear on the ballot, or August 3, the deadline by which any petition for party recognition for the 2020 election must be submitted.
Other federal courts have ruled in favor of political parties seeking reduction in signature requirements to be recognized as a political party. In Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Pritzker, 2020 WL 1951687 (N.D. Ill. April 23, 2020) the court reduced the signature requirement to 10%, and in Esshaki v. Whitmer, 2020 WL 1910154 (E.D. Mich. April 20, 2020) the court reduced the signature requirement to 50%.