Vol. 9, No. 49
December 6 - 12, 2001 
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End the Era of Stacked-Deck Politics

The Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments a few days ago about why Green Party candidates should not face enormous hurdles to get on election ballots.

You may not know this, but Maryland is among the states most unfriendly to would-be officeholders who belong to neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties.

Supporters of Ross Perot encountered the problem in the 1990s. Now the Green Party, Libertarians and anyone else refusing to pledge their first-born to the major political parties have a steep climb in competing for elected office.

Say you wanted to run under the “Whup Osama’s Behind Party.” You’d better forget it and just yell at your TV.

Why? Because of Maryland’s extraordinary ballot-access requirements, in which upwards of 26,000 signatures are needed for independent-party candidates to qualify.

That many John Hancocks is a tall order indeed. You could camp behind a folding chair at the mall for a month and not come close. And if you did, somebody hard-wired into one of the major parties would challenge the validity of each scribble. And would probably win.

How does Maryland stack up to other states? In Alabama and Georgia, it takes over 39,000. Texas, which has four times as many people, requires roughly the same number of signatures as Maryland.

Most states in our region don’t block ballot access. Even in seldom-progressive Virginia, you can run with 10,000 signatures.

We’re rooting for the underdog in Maryland’s highest court, even though it’s the General Assembly that should be taking the lead rather than perpetuating a system that protects incumbents. The Green Party already is a certified political party in Maryland, which required 10,000 signatures.

We may get a Christmas ornament or two hurled at us by Democrats still irked at the Greens and Ralph Nader for siphoning away enough votes to perhaps have swung last year’s presidential election.

But this is not about one party. We’re speaking here about fairness, inclusion and political participation — all of which Maryland continues to sacrifice.

Then again, we might want to stay like Alabama.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly