Former Maryland state senator Tommie Broadwater, asserting that a state constitutional amendment unfairly prevented him from running for his old seat from Prince George's County, appealed yesterday an Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge's decision upholding the amendment.
Judge Bruce Williams, in an 11-page opinion released Friday, said that the amendment requiring candidates for state office to be registered voters did not violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution as Broadwater said in his 1984 suit that asked that the amendment be dismissed.
Upon his release from prison in May 1984, where he served time for food stamp fraud, Broadwater announced his intention to regain his seat representing the county's 24th Legislative District in the 1986 elections. At the time of his announcement, only candidates who were nominees of a political party were required to be registered voters. Broadwater planned to run as an independent.
The amendment broadening the voter registration requirement, put on the ballot by the state legislature, passed in November 1984. Broadwater filed his suit shortly thereafter. He will be eligible to vote in 1988, when his probation ends.
Broadwater claimed in his suit that the amendment was aimed at him and that it precluded about 40 percent of the residents of Prince George's County -- those 18 or older who are not registered -- from running for state office.
"Regardless of what Mr. Broadwater has done in preparation for his candidacy in 1986," the opinion said, "he is bound by the law as it exists at the time of his election. If Tommie Broadwater wishes to be elected to office in 1986, he must be a registered voter as required by the Maryland Constitution . . . .
"Broadwater's case may well have alerted the people of this state to a deficiency in their constitution," Williams' opinion said. "But the amendment applies equally to all citizens of this state, not just Tommie Broadwater. The fact Broadwater may have been the efficient cause of the amendment is irrelevant."
Reached at his Glenarden home yesterday, Broadwater said Williams' decision did not surprise him. "We thought we would have to go to the Court of Appeals anyway," he said. "We're not giving up. We are still very hopeful of winning."
Eric Slatkin, one of Broadwater's attorneys, said that the appeal was filed yesterday with the Maryland Special Court of Appeals. Slatkin said he believes the court will hear the case.
"Anytime you are precluding voters from voting for candidates of their choice, the court should review the issue with the strictest of scrutiny," he said.