I was pleased that Maryland's gerrymandered congressional districts will be put on the ballot this year so that voters can weigh in on them ("Referendum on political redistricting makes ballot," July 21). But there are other choices that voters may not have this November — namely, all 16 candidates for federal office who have been nominated by Maryland's two leading minor political parties.
Last year, both the Green and the Libertarian Parties submitted 15,000 petition signatures to meet the 10,000 valid signature requirement, but the State Board of Elections denied both parties a renewal of their ballot status. So despite our many policy differences, the two parties joined forces and sued the board. We won the case at the Circuit Court level, and the judge ordered both parties be returned to the ballot. But then the state appealed, and Maryland's Court of Appeals ruled against us, reversing the lower court's ruling.
So now both parties — and all 16 of their nominees for federal office — face removal from the ballot, unless they can submit thousands of valid petition signatures before the Aug. 6 deadline. This is very difficult, so I would urge all of Maryland's voters who believe in fair and open elections to visit the websites of the two parties and sign their petitions.
Maryland might well be disgraced by being the only state in the nation that has only the two major-party nominees on the ballot, making it the least democratic state in the country. This might well be the effect of this very bad court decision.
And in addition to what individuals can do, there is also something that state legislators can do. It is high time that the party petition requirement be reduced from 10,000 to 5,000, which would allow legitimate small parties to qualify without squandering all of their resources, while still keeping non-serious candidates off the ballot. I do not believe that the General Assembly intended to make it too difficult for minor parties to qualify for the ballot but that is the effect of the high court's bad decision.
If a special session is held to address gambling, some lawmakers have proposed legislation to correct another bad Court of Appeals ruling, the one that held that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. If such a session is held, then I hope that legislation may also be introduced to correct this other bad court decision. After all, isn't democracy more important than dogs?
Doug McNeil, Baltimore
The writer was the Libertarian Party's 2010 nominee for lieutenant governor and is a principal in the election law case.