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Board To Re-Examine Third-Party Signatures

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(AP Photo/David Quinn)

(AP Photo/David Quinn)

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland State Board of Elections will take another look at signatures that were deemed invalid in a drive by the Libertarian Party and Green Party to have their candidates recognized on state ballots, an attorney for the board said Friday.

The parties’ candidates for governor failed to get 1 percent of the vote last November. That meant both needed to submit 10,000 signatures of registered voters in order to be recognized as political parties on future Maryland ballots. Late last month, the board notified the parties that they were thousands of signatures short, after close to 9,000 from each were invalidated.

The signature count has been complicated by a ruling issued by the state’s highest court about two weeks after the board began its signature count. The Court of Appeals ruled March 22 that illegible handwriting could not be a reason to disqualify a signature.

“We agree with the parties to some extent that some of the rejected signatures need to be looked at again, and we’re going to be doing that,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeff Darsie, counsel to the board.

Both parties filed a lawsuit this week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court seeking to validate thousands of signatures they submitted. Attorneys for the parties contend rules used by the board to validate signatures are overly restrictive.

“The defendants improperly invalidated thousands of signatures under a more restrictive standard than is provided for by Maryland law,” the lawsuit stated.

In anticipation of the court’s ruling, the board instituted new procedures for validating signatures, but Darsie said the new procedures did not cover everything outlined by the ruling. Enough signatures are in question that “either one or both parties could have enough already,” he said.

The board notified the Green Party on March 31 that out of 14,886 signatures, it accepted 3,928. It also noted that 1,977 were accepted as valid under the court opinion, for a total of 5,905. The board invalidated 8,981. The Libertarian Party was notified on the same day that out of 14,994 signatures, 3,815 were accepted. An additional 2,417 were accepted in the wake of the court opinion, for a total of 6,232. A total of 8,762 were invalidated.

Mark Grannis, an attorney for the parties, said he believes a faithful application of the standard applied by the Court of Appeals would require the board to count differently.

“We’re not trying to make trouble here,” Grannis said. “We’re doing this more in sorrow than in anger.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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