Independent Jack Wilson of Arnold Will Run As A Write-in Candidate In Maryland's First Congressional District After State Rejects Ballot Petition ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Monday, August 30, 2010

Independent Jack Wilson of Arnold Will Run As A Write-in Candidate In Maryland's First Congressional District After State Rejects Ballot Petition

The hopes of an independent candidate for getting on the November ballot for Maryland’s First Congressional District have been dashed after a majority of voter signatures on his petition were rejected. Jack Wilson of Arnold in Anne Arundel County says he will mount a write-in campaign after nearly 7,000 of the 7,965 signatures he collected were invalidated. Based on a formula in state law, 4,937 valid signatures were required. However, the Board of Elections determined that approximately 7,000 of Wilson’s signatures were invalid partially because 2,454 of them that were not from registered voters and 361 were not in the First Congressional District. While almost 3,000 of the nearly 8,000 were found to be registration signatures, they too were rejected for one reason or another, perhaps due to technicalities or inconsistencies as determined by the wording of the state law.

The state law (§ion=6-203) says that in order for a signature to be valid, it must have “the individual’s name as it appears on the statewide voter registration list or the individual’s surname of registration and at least one full given name and the initials of any other names”.

Wilson calls the finding by the Board an “outright disenfranchisement of thousands of voters who supported the presence of a strong independent candidate on the November ballot.” He further states, “We easily went well above and beyond the required 4,900 or so signatures to get on the ballot. The larger number of signatures that were collected is a reflection of how eager people have been to support an independent candidate such as myself. The Board of Elections’ decision is unfortunately based on extremely strict and unreasonable standards.”

Wilson says he spent between $40,000 and $60,000 of his own money in his campaign and that he was loathe collecting funds until he knew he was getting on the ballot. Encouraged by his many supporters and the thousands who signed his petition, Wilson believe he owes it to his supporters to mount a write-in campaign that also requires filing paperwork with state authorities.

In an obvious swipe at State Senator Andy Harris, his likely Republican opponent, Wilson says, “People in our district are tired of career politicians who have failed to deliver over and over again. But they will still have a choice in November and will be able to write in my name on the ballot.”

Maryland’s First Congressional District includes all of the mainly rural Eastern Shore, parts of more suburban Anne Arundel County near Annapolis and some areas north of Baltimore. Wilson will go up against first-term incumbent Democrat Frank Kratovil, who is expected to again have a very tight race against Harris who he narrowly defeated two years ago, or possibly Rob Fisher, another Republican challenger.

The Harris-Kratovil match in 2008 gave Kratovil 49.1 percent to Harris’ 48.3 percent of the vote. A Libertarian got 2.5 percent proving that a third party candidate plays a role in the outcome. It is not unreasonable to assume that Democrats would favor an active candidate such as Wilson to dilute Republican votes while Harris and Fisher are probably relieved about the the Board’s decision. The Kratovil campaign which says its own polls place the incumbent five points ahead of Harris was not concerned about the Wilson news one way or another and the two Republican candidates did not return calls by deadline.

However, this goes beyond that typical third party candidate debate. It’s about how difficult it is to get a third party or independent candidate on the ballot and its importance may go beyond Maryland because Kratovil, a former prosecutor, is thought to be vulnerable in this somewhat unusual election year. The Democrats are intent on holding the seat while the GOP is hungry to recapture it and each party is paying attention and throwing its support. Kratovil, who voted against the Obama-led health care reforms, has been walking a political tightrope in this generally conservative district, which had been represented for many years by Wayne Gilchrest, a nine-term moderate Republican who was defeated by Harris. In previous elections, Gilchrest had won handily but he became disenchanted with some Republicans, appeared to run a lackluster and non-enthusiastic campaign in 2008 but his support buoyed Kratovil.

Wilson, a semi-retired small businessman, Navy Veteran, and former union steamfitter strongly advocates limited government and fiscal responsibility. His website says, “Both Democrats and Republicans have failed us. Our government in Washington has spiraled out of control with an ever increasing power grabbing by those we sent to represent us.”

Harris’s website says he “has been a proven fighter for less government and more freedom. He signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge 12 years ago and kept his word. He has consistently stood with Maryland families against more government and higher taxes. He stands squarely with Maryland families for a balanced budget and less spending, deficits and debt.” Fisher’s website shows he is similarly anti big-government, anti tax-increases and anti-spending.

The seat has wavered between Democrats and Republicans and had notably been held by Republicans Rogers C.B. Morton who became Secretary of Interior under Nixon and Robert Bauman, a leading conservative acolyte and hopeful for higher office until he was caught in an alcohol and sex scandal.

Most voters do not know off the top of their head just how their name is registered and unless one is carrying their voter registration card, or in the midst of being asked to sign a petition in a busy place, may not think of pulling it from their wallet or purse. Florida, for example, simply requires that the voter registration signature and official name be the same as the driver license. The verification process across the state is consistent with state law and voters, hopeful candidates and other referendum seekers may find they have equally difficult times getting on ballots.

An initiative to place Montgomery County's ambulance fee law on the November ballot for a vote was recently rejected. County Council Democrat Phil Andrews said, “Such disenfranchisement can't be allowed to stand. If the will of voters is thwarted by absurd, disenfranchising signature rules, I will introduce a bill in the County Council to repeal the ambulance fee law, which is dangerous public policy. In addition, if the courts don't undo the disenfranchisement carried out by the Board of Elections, the Maryland General Assembly should reform the referendum law to remove provisions that increase the possibility of fraud and unduly burden the right of Marylanders to petition laws to a vote.  


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