ANNAPOLIS – Political action committees should be barred from using a candidate’s name without that candidate’s consent, lawmakers told a House committee Tuesday.
“A candidate should have a say in who can use their name,” Del. Gerald Curran, D-Baltimore, said in testimony to the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, which he chairs. “Candidates should be able to protect their name and what they stand for.”
Curran introduced a bill to that end after legislative candidates from Anne Arundel County complained that during last fall’s primary, another candidate used their names on literature and signs without their permission.
Such practices are “deceiving to the public,” Curran said.
Del. Phillip Bissett, R-Anne Arundel, who was among the wronged candidates, explained that the bill not only would protect a candidate’s reputation, but his finances.
“When I first heard about the incident, my first fear was what the financial liability might be,” Bissett said, adding, however, that he was not held responsible for the candidate’s actions.
“This bill is about prior consent,” Bissett said. “If someone was going to put my name as the co-signer of a bill or on a car loan, I should be contacted. This should not be different in an election.”
Curran said the legislation should not raise a constitutional question, as it does not keep people from supporting or opposing candidates.
The committee also heard testimony on a bill to allow registered independent voters to serve as election judges. Currently only registered Democrats or Republicans can staff polls.
Del. John Leopold, R-Anne Arundel, said that if passed, the legislation would increase the pool from which election judges can be found by about 220,000 people.
“There is a serious problem in finding election judges, and the bill would allow people who have been disenfranchised to participate,” Leopold said.
Patty Pollard, president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland, agreed.
“Reports from the 1994 election demonstrate the need to enlarge the pool of competent persons available to serve as judges,” she said.
Del. Michael Burns, R-Anne Arundel, urged the committee to support another bill, to allow candidates and political organizations to pay expenses with wire transfers.
“This bill will bring Maryland into the 1990s” and help campaigns save time and respond more effectively to emergencies, Burns said.
Current state law requires expenses to be paid by check signed by the treasurer.