The U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday ordered Maryland election officials to include Tom Mathers, a Libertarian, on the May 19 ballot in the special Prince George's County congressional election.
Mathers will join Democrat Steny Hoyer and Republican Audrey Scott on the ballot. He will appear without his Libertarian Party identification, however, because the Libertarians do not have enough members to win officials status under state law.
The ruling by a three-member panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was the result of a suit filed in March shortly after Mathers, a 32-year-old writer for a securities dealers trade association, was told by state election officials that he had not collected enough voter signatures to be included on the ballot.
State law requires that candidates who are not members of recognized parties, which in Maryland means the Democratc or Republicans parties, must collect the signatures of three percent of the election district's registered voters by the election's filing deadline.
In the 5th District, which includes Prince George's and a sliver of Montgomery County, Mathers was required to collect 5,436 signatures. The election was called unexpectedly after Gladys Spellman was found to be too ill to return to the seat, and Mathers was able to collect only 908 by the official March 16 deadline.
Mather's lawyers charged that the speed with which the election was called unfairly prevented Mathers from gathering enough signatures. The suit asked that Mathers be allowed to submit some 7,800 additional signatures he collected between the filing deadline and the special primaries on April 7.
Most of those signatures have been declared "valad" by the state elections board, giving Mathers more than the number needed to appear on the ballot.
Attorneys for the state had argued unsuccesfully that the election law was fair and had been designed to place the same sort of burden on unaffiliated candidates to get on the general election ballot that party candidates face in to get on the general election ballot.
Mathers said yesterday that as a result of the ruling he hopes to now be included in candidates forums and debates. Mathers says his platform is simply to limit the federal government's role to protecting citizens and the nation from outside aggression.