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Independent party no longer qualified for party status

Voters are given two weeks to change affiliation to a recognized political party or to specify a party

July 02, 2010|By DON AINES

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- With Independence Day right around the corner, hundreds of registered voters in Washington County are receiving letters informing them they no longer can be registered as "Independent" voters.

Many voters have long referred to themselves as independents and have registered to vote that way rather than as unaffiliated, but the Maryland Board of Elections last month determined that the actual Independent Party, formed in 2008 to support the presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader, no longer was qualified to appear on ballots in the state.

The Independent Party has not filed any annual or campaign reports for 2009 and 2010, or had any other candidates, while the chairman has resigned and the treasurer moved to Iowa, said Jared DeMarinis, the director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.

On June 3, the Board of Elections found the Independent Party was not in compliance with state law and, essentially, it no longer existed, DeMarinis said. Statewide, there were more than 30,000 people who registered over the years as independent, said Mary C. Wagner, the director of the Board's Voter Registration & Petitions Division.

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Wagner said she has received a number of calls from people who were "astonished" to find they were registered with an actual political party when their intent was to be independent of any party.

"We've been getting a lot of calls," said Kaye Robucci, the acting director of Washington County's Board of Elections.

About 1,700 of the county's 82,000 registered voters list themselves as independent.

The letters mailed out this week inform those who registered as independent that "you have registered with a political party that no longer meets the legal qualification for party status under the Maryland Election Law. "Voters are given two weeks to return a signed request to change affiliation to a recognized political party or to specify a party under the category of "Other."

If the letter is not returned, a voter's registration will be changed to "Unaffiliated (independent of any party)," according to the letter. Wagner and DeMarinis said the change does not affect the status of those voters, who can vote in general elections, but not in Democratic or Republican primaries. Unaffiliated voters can vote in nonpartisan primary contests, such as board of education races, according to state election law.

The recognized political parties on the letter are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Constitution, but there is quite a variety of "Other" in the county, according to Tamara Derr, a county election clerk.

County residents have registered as members of the American Socialist, Anarchist, Communist, Free Choice and American Independent parties, to name a few. The list also includes parties that sound like they ought to be on a history test -- Bull Moose, Whig and National Socialist.

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