A political party is an organized group of voters that wants to influence government by electing its own candidates to public office. To form a political party in Maryland, a group of voters must file a valid petition in a timely manner with the State Board of Elections. To retain party status, however, either the party's candidate must poll 1% of the entire vote in the next general election, or at least 1% of the State's registered voters must be affiliated with the party by year's end (Code 1957, Art. 33, sec. 4-103).
In Maryland, provisions for recognition of political parties by the State Board of Elections are established by law. They are found in the Annotated Code of Maryland (Code 1957, Art. 33, secs. 4-101 through 4-103). As of August 2000, six political parties were so recognized: the Constitution Party, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Reform Party, and the Republican Party.
STATE CENTRAL COMMITTEES
Each political party in Maryland functions under its own constitution and bylaws, and is governed by a state central committee (Code 1957, Art. 33, secs. 4-201 through 4-205). Today, the state central committee is composed of the members of the party's local central committees for the counties and Baltimore City.
State central committees evolved at the end of the nineteenth century as progressive reforms transformed the electoral process, and the procedure for voting came to be more closely regulated. When primary elections developed at the end of the nineteenth century, state central committees formed to oversee their conduct.* In 1886, legal provisions for primaries in Baltimore City were enacted. They were
" . . . to be held by any voluntary political association or party in the city of Baltimore for delegates to any managing convention, otherwise called City Convention, or to any nominating convention, or for the nomination of candidates for any state or municipal office . . . " (Chapter 502, Acts of 1886)
Two years later, the General Assembly provided for primaries in Allegany County.
" . . . every political primary election held by any political party, organization or association, in Allegany County, for the purpose of choosing candidates for office, or the election of delegates to county conventions, shall be presided over and conducted by judges of election selected in the manner prescribed by the rules or regulations of the political party, organization or association holding such primary . . . " (Chapter 181, Acts of 1888)
By 1892, responsibilities of a local state central committee were noted in a law defining procedures for Queen Anne's County primary elections.
"It shall be the duty of the Democratice State Central Committee to have the ballots prepared and to issue instructions as to the manner of marking and using the same. And it shall be the duty of the Democratic District Executive Committee to have posted the sample ballot at the polling place in their respective districts, at the opening of the polls." (Chapter 508, Acts of 1892)
What later became public charges were intermingled with political party expenses.
" . . . the Democratic State Central Committee is authorized and empowered to assess and collect of the various candidates represented by the delegations to go on the ticket a sum sufficient to pay for preparation of ballots, room rent, and a fair per diem to judges and clerks . . ." (Chapter 508, Acts of 1892)
That same year, legislation outlining the primary process for Baltimore County referred to the state central committee as well.
" . . . polls shall be open for such time as may be prescribed by the State central committee or the county executive committee ordering said primary election, precinct meeting or other meeting." (Chapter 261, Acts of 1892).
In recent times, an important function of state central committees has been to name those who will replace General Assembly members who have died, resigned, refused to act, or been disqualified, expelled, or removed from office (Chapter 584, Acts of 1935, ratified Nov. 3, 1936). Although the Governor makes the appointment to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly, the Governor must select the person nominated by the state central committee of the party with which the vacating legislator had been affiliated (Const., Art III, sec. 13).
*Some local jurisdictions had held primaries earlier, but the first statewide primary in Maryland was not held until August 30, 1910.
© Copyright April 10, 2001 Maryland State Archives
Maryland Manual On-Line, 2001
April 1, 2001
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