An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge yesterday ruled in favor of Maryland's Greens and Libertarians in their quest to get back on election ballots -- determining that failure to fulfill the controversial middle name requirement is in itself not a reason to toss a petition signature.
The question now is whether the State Board of Elections will appeal the ruling. It has about a month to decide. A spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, which represents the elections board, said officials are reviewing their options.
An appeal could eventually land the contentious middle name issue back before the Court of Appeals -- a step the state may or may not want to take with a far more politically heated petition waiting in the wings.
The Greens and Libertarians sued the State Board of Elections for invalidating signatures of registered voters. Each had needed to collect 10,000 valid signatures to remain as official parties in the state, and each turned in about 16,000, though about 3,000 signers could not be identified as voters.
Working off previous Court of Appeals rulings that established tight requirements on petitions, the board invalidated thousands of signatures where the person failed to use his or her middle initial or middle name, abbreviated a first name or used some other imprecise name configuration.
But retired Judge Eugene M. Lerner, brought in specially for the case, agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that the printed name is but one of many ways to verify that the signer is a registered voter.
Mark Grannis, a Washington-based attorney representing the Greens and Libertarians, quoted a more recent Court of Appeals ruling on messy signatures that indicated "sufficient cumulative information" (emphasis added) was needed to validate a signature.