Baltimore voters will (hopefully) have some choice

July 17, 2011

As The Sun's editorial noted, Baltimore's September primary ballot is crowded with 63 candidates running for the 14 city council seats ("What should we ask?" July 10). But as usual, the November general election ballot will be largely depopulated.

A Democrat will be on the ballot in every district, and in two districts (6 and 9) they will be running unopposed. But the number of "one party" districts would have been much higher if it were not for the Libertarian and Green parties. Four districts (11, 12, 13, and 14) have Democrats opposed only by a Libertarian or a Green. That's equal to the number of districts in which Republicans provide the only opposition ( 2, 5, 7, and 8).

Three districts (1, 4, and 10) have Democrats opposed only by an unaffiliated candidate whose ballot status is uncertain until the elections board validates their petitions. Only one district (3) will have more than two candidates on the ballot.

Instead of only two districts with no choice at all in the general election, Baltimore voters might have seen Soviet-style ballots (with only one candidate) in nearly two-thirds of the council races if the Libertarian and Green Parties had not won their joint ballot access lawsuit last month. That court decision put those two parties back on the ballot and made it much easier for independent candidates to qualify.

But that may change next year. The state elections board may appeal the decision, and if they win, the Green and Libertarian parties will cease to exist as political parties, and unaffiliated candidates will generally be unable to get on the ballot.

This year the Green and Libertarian parties gave voters in four of Baltimore's 14 council districts something they would not otherwise have next November, a choice. Why would anyone want to take that choice away?

Susan J. Gaztañaga, Baltimore

The writer is the secretary of the Baltimore Libertarian Party.

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