On May 21, the highest state court in Maryland, the State Court of Appeals, interpreted Maryland election law to mean that signatures on petitions are invalid if there is no exact match in the name on the voter registration record, and the name on the petition. As a result, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party do not have enough valid signatures on their petitions for 2012, and must now get more before the August 6 deadline. Here is the 36-page unanimous decision, which is called Maryland State Board of Elections v Libertarian Party of Maryland, 11-79. UPDATE: see this article.
The Court also construed the law to mean that if a voter signs the petition the first time using a nickname or other variant of the name that doesn’t match, that voter is not then free to re-sign another sheet of the petition with the precisely correct name.
Maryland requires 10,000 signatures for ballot access for new parties. The Libertarian Party is now deemed to have only 6,583 valid signatures, and the Green Party now has only 5,919 valid signatures.
The Court took pains to say that it is not deciding whether the strict standard is constitutional or not. It says it cannot decide that question because the case was not presented to it as a constitutional question. Reading between the lines, it is overwhelmingly likely that the Court decided this case in this hostile manner because the judges are not sympathetic to various referenda petitions being circulated. The judges probably believe that the Libertarian and Green Parties, and other minor parties, will be able to qualify despite the ruling, because the number of valid signatures they still need is a small number. The real impact of this decision will be to make it virtually impossible for referendum petitions to succeed, including one that would put same-sex marriage to a popular vote. Referendum petitions covering statewide issues need approximately 60,000 valid signatures.