Green Party: Harford Democrats don't know how good they've got it

February 17, 2011

The classification of the Harford County Democrats as a "fringe" party would be funny if the thought wasn't so sad ("Harford Democrats termed fringe party, shut out of redistricting," Feb. 16). Councilman Richard Slutzky's argument that letting Democrats into the redistricting committee would be as unfathomable as (gasp!) letting in the Green Party has no doubt rubbed a sore spot with the Dems. Let me send a brief letter from the fringe to a party that has no idea what the fringe really is.

As the state chairman of the Green Party, I am well aware of how the law is turned against those (Greens, Libertarians, the Constitution Party) trying to make better policy through the electoral process. I find it hard to sympathize with the Harford Democrats' plight (the irony that they themselves implemented this legal exclusion aside). All Maryland Democrats maintain the legal status of their party and candidates without a lengthy, expensive petition process — the Green Party cannot. Democrats are entitled to a state-funded primary election to promote their candidates — Greens are not. When was the last time a debate organizer — many using public resources to promote their events — had to decide whether the Democrat would be invited or not? Greens, when we can qualify for the ballot, almost never are.

Perhaps the exclusively-Republican redistricting committee will further gerrymander the Harford Democrats into oblivion. They can then feel firsthand how restrictive ballot access laws make it impossible for a minor party to keep up with their opponents' unfettered organizing, leaving them incapable of preventing further legal restrictions. The cycle of abuse then continues. Maybe, just maybe, this brief escapade will give Maryland Democrats a glance at what it's really like on the fringe, and how the law puts us there.

Brian Bittner, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Maryland Green Party.

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