A U.S. District Court judge apparently cleared the way today for John Anderson's name to appear on Maryland's November ballot by declaring unconstitutional the state's preliminary filing deadline for independent presidential candidates.
Several hours after the ruling, however, Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs announced he would appeal Judge Joseph H. Young's ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In his opinion, Young said that Maryland's attorneys had showed "no compelling state interest . . . to justify" their requirement that independent presidential candidates file a certificate of candidacy my March 3, five months before Republican an Democratic nominees must do so.
Nearly a month ago Anderson's supporters in Maryland turned in to the state nearly 89,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. Today Anderson campaign officials said that local election officials had already certified more than 69,000 of these signatures as valid -- well above the 55,517 required.
State election officials have declined to release the results of the certification procedures until all 24 Maryland jurisdictions have completed their review.
The state law struck down by Young required Anderson's campaign to file one-third of the necessary supporting signatures by March 3, a date that fell six weeks after Anderson abandoned the Republican primary contests and announced his independent candidacy.
Today's ruling would appear to make Maryland the 11th state in which Anderson has qualified for the ballot. However, one of these states -- Ohio -- also is appealing a federal court decision striking down its own preliminary filing deadline.
Attorney General Sachs said yesterday that, in addition to its own appeal, Maryland plans to join Ohio in its attempt to obtain immediate Supreme Court review of the case, a move that would bypass the federal circuit court.
In a statement released this afternoon, Sachs said that "Congressman Anderson's presence or absence from the ballot in Ohio and Maryland and other states with similar restrictions could determine the outcome of this year's national election.
"The constitutional legitimacy of his ballot position should therefore be resolved by the highest court in the land if at all possible."
Anderson campaign officials said they were pleased by the decision.
"Thus far, we've made a clean sweep" of all election rules challenges in the federal courts, Anderson campaign attorney Michael Powell said today. iCourt rulings on challenges to Maine's and Kentucky's laws are still pendng, he said.
Maryland is one of several states regarded as fertile ground for an Anderson candidacy. While the state is heavily Democratic, moderates dominate both parties. In the May 13 primary, more than 10 percent of the state's Democrats pulled the "uncommitted" lever, while a like percentage of Republicans voted for Anderson, despite his having withdrawn from the Republican race.
"We fully expect to win here," said Anderson's Maryland campaign press secretary, Rosalind Jewett.
In their arguments on behalf of the filing deadline, attorneys for Maryland argued that it merely established two separate routes to the ballot, one for major party nominees and one for independents and minor party candidates.
This dual route provision was necessary. Assistant Attorney General Diana Motz argued, to prevent "defeated party candidates from trying to have it both ways," and to "prevent a defeated party candidate [from any attempt] to thwart the will of the party . . . or [to] seek vengeance against the party's choice."
Young did not specifically address Motz's argument, but cited a 1970 case in Ohio in which a federal appeals court ruled that "one may not play dog in a political manger by withholding his determination of candidacy until after party candidates are chosen . . ."
That argument, Young said, does not justify "a deadline for independent candidates for president [which occurs] months before the party conventions, since party nominees for president are not chosen until then."
Attorney General Sachs indicated today he would file his appeal of Young's ruling as soon as possible "and press for an expedited hearing."
Sachs said "the issue is not whether it is a good idea or a bad idea for John Anderson to be on Maryland's general election ballot. The issue is whether Maryland law, which says he filed too late to get on the ballot, squares with the United States Constitution."