Maryland voters registered as members of the Green and Libertarian parties may have received a letter in the mail stating their party is no longer recognized by the state.
Here’s why that’s happening, and what voters need to know about it.
Who got a letter?
Maryland residents who are registered to vote as members of the Libertarian and Green parties. The letters from their local board of elections notified them that their party failed to maintain recognition in Maryland after the 2018 general election.
What did the letter state?
The letter states that the Green and Libertarian parties each lost their status as a recognized political party in Maryland. That means registered members of both parties had their affiliation automatically changed from Green and Libertarian to “Other-Green” and “Other-Libertarian,” respectively.
The letter also told party members that they can opt to change from “other” to Democrat, Republican, Bread and Roses, Unaffiliated or a different “other” party.
Why did the parties lose their state recognition and access to the ballot?
For a political party to appear on a ballot in Maryland, it must fulfill one of two requirements: nominate a candidate who receives at least 1 percent of the total vote for the highest office on the ballot in a statewide general election, or show that the party represents at least 1 percent of the state’s registered voters.
The state, which evaluates each political party’s status every four years, found in December that the Green and Libertarian parties had not fulfilled either of the two provisions, said Donna Duncan, assistant deputy for election policy with the State Board of Elections.
What are the parties doing about it?
The Libertarians filed a lawsuit Dec. 27 against the state. The party’s Maryland spokesman Lorenzo Gaztañaga called the state’s decision to remove the party from ballots a “waste of resources” over what is ultimately a technicality, he said.
To regain its status, the party must submit a petition with 10,000 signatures pledging interest in seeing the party appear on the ballot. In the lawsuit, Libertarians are arguing that the petition should be unnecessary given that there were already more than 20,000 registered Libertarians in Maryland, Gaztañaga said.
“This is an exercise in bureaucratic abuse,” he said. “Every time you de-label these organizations, the people that have decided to affiliate themselves get these confusing notes in the mail.”
The Maryland Green Party supports the aim of the Libertarians’ lawsuit. In past years, Green Party leadership has sought to change Maryland’s laws from requiring the party to represent 1 percent of registered voters to instead requiring it to represent 10,000 registered voters, said Andy Ellis, secretary for the Maryland Green Party.
Prior to losing its status, the Maryland Green Party had about 9,200 registered voters, Ellis said.
“We've worked to get this changed and there just doesn't seem to be an appetite for that change right now,” he said of the legislative push to change the law.
Maryland voting laws create a disadvantage for candidates who wish to run for office as a member of the Green Party, Ellis said.
“We'd like to be recruiting candidates right now, but candidates can't file with us at the moment,” he said. “We don't mind talking to voters about what we're about, we'd like to gear up for 2020 elections and talk to voters about candidates, not the party.”
Both Ellis and Gaztañaga were confident their respective parties will regain recognition in Maryland, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.
“Anyone who has gotten [the letter] in mail should know it’s not a long-term situation,” Gaztañaga said.