On May 26, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said that he is letting HB 529 become law without his signature. There is no legal difference between a bill that gets signed by a Governor, and a bill that becomes law without the Governor’s signature. Generally a Governor declines to sign certain bills because he or she doesn’t really approve of them, but on the other hand doesn’t want to veto.
The bill lowers the number of signatures for a statewide independent from 1% of the number of registered voters (now over 40,000) to exactly 10,000. The bill only came into existence because an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, Greg Dorsey, had filed a lawsuit in 2015, arguing that there is no good reason for a statewide independent to need over 40,000 signatures, when an entire new party can get on the ballot with exactly 10,000. The U.S. District Court Judge issued an opinion in 2016 saying he would not dismiss the lawsuit because it was likely going to win. Thereafter, the State Board of Elections signed an agreement with Dorsey saying it would not require any statewide independent candidate to submit more than 10,000 signatures during 2016 and 2017 and that it would try to persuade the legislature to reduce the requirement. The Board then arranged to have this amendment inserted into HB 143, an omnibus election law bill. But in December 2016, Governor Hogan had used his authority over the Board to have the amendment taken out. It is not known exactly what happened next, but soon another Election Board bill had emerged with the amendment. That bill, HB 529, is now law.
Four states have now made independent presidential ballot access significant easier in the last four years: Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Of those four, the Pennsylvania and Maryland improvements are the only two that relate to all statewide office, instead of just president. Thanks to Brandon Holtzner for this news.