There are some big things that are wrong with the way Marylanders elect candidates to office. We hand the drawing of legislative and congressional district lines to self-interested politicians who abuse the process to bolster their political parties, reward friends and punish enemies. And we have a campaign finance system that magnifies the influence of wealthy special interests. Those are foundational problems in our political system, and the possible solutions to them — redistricting reform and publicly financed campaigns — have proven to be difficult to enact. But this year’s elections have uncovered some dumb problems that are eminently fixable.
For the last several weeks, we’ve witnessed the state’s maddening refusal to remove former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks’ name from the June 26 primary ballot, despite his concerted efforts to drop out following his guilty plea on corruption charges. Now, following the sudden death of former Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, we’re seeing the same problem magnified to a new level of absurdity.
Maryland law does account for the possibility that a candidate for governor would die before an election, but it’s increasinly clear that nobody thought it through all that carefully. As was her right under state law, Kamenetz’s running mate, former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, has chosen to run in his stead. But now state election officials say it’s not only too late to remove Mr. Kamenetz’s name from the ballot, it’s also too late to add hers. The ballots are already being printed, and some absentees have already been sent out. As of now, it’s unclear how Marylanders will be able to vote for Ms. Ervin and her running mate, former Baltimore County school board member Marisol Johnson, or what will happen to votes cast for Kamenetz.