United States District Court, D. Maryland
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge
(“Rocky”) De La Fuente, the pro se plaintiff, was
an unaffiliated candidate for President of the United States
in 2016. ECF 1, ¶ 4. De La Fuente filed suit on August
2, 2016, against Linda Lamone, in her capacity as
Administrator of the State Board of Elections
(“Board”), and twenty unnamed defendants,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See ECF 1. He
claims that he was subjected to an unconstitutional burden to
gain placement on the ballot in Maryland. Id.
particular, De La Fuente claims that on Friday, July 29,
2016, in connection with the settlement of another federal
case, to which plaintiff was not a party, the Board agreed to
reduce "the statewide independent petition requirement
in 2016", so as to expand “the ability for a voter
in Maryland to vote for the candidate more representative of
their choice." ECF 1 at 1. However, he complains that he
could not benefit from the change because, under Md. Code
(2017 Repl. Vol.), § 5-703(f)(1) of the Election Law
Article ("E.L."), the deadline for an unaffiliated
candidate to submit the requisite signatures was "a mere
1 business day after the" settlement agreement.
Id. In his view, "the deadline place[d]
an extraordinary if not impossible burden to gather the
signatures required by this deadline." Id.
suit, De La Fuente seeks, inter alia, a declaration
that Maryland‘s "statutory scheme
unconstitutionally infringes upon the Plaintiffs right to
ballot access and to participate in the electoral
process." Id. at 5. Moreover, he sought an
Order placing him on the 2016 presidential ballot in
Maryland, as well as a declaration extending the deadline for
the submission of signatures by twenty or more days.
Id. But, plaintiff concedes that most of his
requests are now moot, except for a declaration that E.L.
§ 5-703 "unconstitutionally infringes" on his
"right to ballot access" and unduly burdens other
unqualified presidential candidates. ECF 12 at 3-4.
docket does not reflect service on Lamone or anyone else.
See docket. Nevertheless, on October 11, 2016,
defendants moved to dismiss (ECF 4), supported by a
memorandum of law. ECF 4-1 (collectively,
"Motion"). De La Fuente sought an extension of time
in which to respond (ECF 6), which I granted. ECF 7. He filed
his opposition on January 23, 2017, well after the November
2016 presidential election. ECF 12 ("Opposition").
Defendants replied. ECF 13 ("Reply").
their submissions, defendants argue, inter alia,
that the case should be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1), because plaintiff has not demonstrated that he has
Article III standing and because the case is now moot.
See ECF 4-1; ECF 13. Defendants also argue that
dismissal is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because,
in their view, plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. See ECF 4-1. De La
Fuente counters that he has Article III standing and contends
that some of the relief sought in the Complaint is not moot.
Motion is fully briefed. No hearing is necessary to resolve
it. See Local Rule 105.6.
Court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the
pleadings of a pro se litigant, which are "held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); see also White v. White, 886 F.2d 721,
722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). I have done so. Nevertheless, for the
reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion.
Maryland Code provides that a candidate for public office who
is not affiliated with any political party may be nominated
for office by petition. E.L. § 5-703(b). Section
5-703(e) is titled "Petition signatures
requirements." E.L. § 5-703(e)(1) provides:
A candidate who seeks nomination by petition may not have the
candidate's name placed on the general election ballot
unless the candidate files with the appropriate board
petitions signed by not less than 1% of the total number of
registered voters who are eligible to vote for the office for
which the nomination by petition is sought, except that the
petitions shall be signed by at least 250 registered voters
who are eligible to vote for the office.
5-703(e)(3) states: "The number of registered voters
required to satisfy the requirements of paragraph (1) of this
subsection shall be determined as of January 1 of the year of
the primary election for which the nomination is
sought." One percent of the total number of eligible
voters in the State as of January of 2016 was approximately
38, 000 people. See Maryland State Bd. of Elections,
Voter Registration Activity, January, 2016,
available at: https://go.usa.gov/x5M9v
(providing that there were a total of 3, 768, 669 active
registered voters as of January 2016).
§5-703(f) is also relevant. It provides, id:
"[A] petition that contains the required number of
signatures specified under subsection (e)(1) of this section
shall be filed with the appropriate board by 5 p.m. on the
first Monday in August in the year in which the general
election is held." August 1, 2016 was the first Monday
in August 2016.
to the case sub judice, on July 24, 2015, Greg
Dorsey, an unaffiliated candidate for United States Senate in
the 2016 general election, filed suit in this Court against,
inter alia, Lamone, challenging the requirement that
unaffiliated candidates must obtain signatures from 1% of
eligible voters in the state. Dorsey v. Lamone, et
al, GLR-15-2170 (D. Md.), ECF 1. As noted, for 2016, the 1%
provision would have required an unaffiliated candidate to
gather about 38, 000 signatures. See also ECF 12 at
3. Dorsey claimed that the requirement that unaffiliated
candidates obtain approximately 38, 000 signatures to gain
ballot access under E.L. § 5-703 was unconstitutional,
given that a candidate intending to run for political office
as a representative of a new political party could gain
access to the ballot with only 10, 000 signatures, in
accordance with E.L. §§ 4-102(b)(2)(i) and 5-703.1.
GLR-15-2170, ECF 1 at 2.
10, 2016, Judge Russell denied defendants‘ motion to
dismiss, observing that Dorsey had stated "a plausible
claim that Maryland‘s ballot access requirements for
unaffiliated candidates are unconstitutional."
Id., ECF 13. Thereafter, on July 29, 2016, the
Friday before the August 1, 2016 ...