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.


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

Two years later, the General Assembly provided for primaries in Allegany County.

By 1892, responsibilities of a local state central committee were noted in a law defining procedures for Queen Anne's County primary elections.

What later became public charges were intermingled with political party expenses.

That same year, legislation outlining the primary process for Baltimore County referred to the state central committee as well.

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.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2001

April 1, 2001   
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