WASHINGTON – State elections officials rejected a bid last week by Green Party candidate Dave Gross to get his name on the ballot in the 1st District congressional race.
“The petition effort fell short by 330 signatures,” said Donna Duncan, director of the election management division for the State Board of Elections. “Various signatures were [from people] deemed not to be registered or registered outside the district.”
Gross said he submitted over 4,200 signatures toward the 3,411 required to garner a spot on the November ballot. The State Board of Elections invalidated hundreds of these signatures, leaving him 330 shy of the required number.
Volunteers for the Gross campaign spent last weekend gathering signatures to make up for the shortfall. Isaac Opalinsky, the petition drive coordinator for the Gross campaign, said supporters turned in approximately 425 signatures to the board on Monday, but Duncan said the board rejected these signatures because they arrived after the Aug. 7 submission deadline.
While the board will not accept additional signatures, Duncan said it will review any invalidated signatures that the Greens can document as valid. Gross’ campaign is in the process of checking the invalidated signatures against lists of registered voters.
“We are still trying to get the board of elections to accept my name on the ballot without the need for a lawsuit,” said Gross.
He said that he would consider filing a lawsuit against the board, challenging the “patently unfair” election laws, if he cannot validate the necessary 330 signatures.
“The law should be the same for Green Party candidates as it is for Democrats and Republicans,” said Gross. “It seems very obvious to me that it’s not democratic. An established political party should be able to run a slate of candidates.”
The Green Party is recognized as one of the official parties in Maryland, as are the Democrats and Republicans. But unlike the two larger parties, the Greens must petition to get their candidates on the ballot. State election laws dictate that a political party has to petition for spots on the ballot if that party’s membership is less than 1 percent of registered voters.
Mark Miller, a legal adviser to the Gross campaign, said that these laws were instituted to “control the outcome” of elections and protect the “entrenched power” of the two dominant parties.
“If we were treated like Democrats and Republicans we would have a guaranteed spot on the ballot,” Miller said. “If you don’t have the ability to challenge the two established parties then you don’t have a democracy.”
If he decides to sue, Gross must do it soon, said Duncan. Maryland law mandates that judicial review of the petition process must be undertaken within 10 days after the board makes its determination.
Delegate Bennett Bozman, D-Somerset, and the Democratic nominee in the 1st District race, believes the ballot-access process – which requires that third parties obtain signatures from at least 1 percent of a district’s registered voters to be on the ballot – is fair. “You have to draw the line some place,” Bozman said of the procedure.
Bozman said he was not worried about the prospect of a Gross’ candidacy. He said he believes Gross would have taken more votes from Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, the Republican incumbent from Kennedyville.
“I think it would have helped me more than it would have helped Gilchrest,” said Bozman.
But Gilchrest’s chief of staff, Tony Caligiuri, disagreed. He said it would be hard to tell exactly what Gross’ impact on the congressional race would be, but he doubted that it would affect the incumbent’s chances.
“I think the Green Party’s base revolves around environmental issues.[and] there is a lot of satisfaction among environmental activists with Gilchrest’s tenure,” Caligiuri said.