On March 22, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest state court in that state, ruled that signatures on petitions may be valid, even if the signature is illegible. The ruling says that if the printed name on the petition and the address match the voter registration records, and the appearance of the signature matches in both places (whether it is legible or not) the signature is valid. Here is the opinion. The vote was 5-2. The case is Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association v Montgomery County Board of Elections, no. 86.
The dissent starts by saying, “Evolution blessed mankind with, among other beneficial features, opposable thumbs. Perfecting the use of our thumbs, modern descendants of the first Homo Sapiens, unlike other primates, are able to sign their names, in cursive, in a legible manner.”
The decision does not decide a related issue, whether a signature is valid if the signer omits his or her middle initial yet includes that middle initial on the voter registration form (or vice versa). That issue is pending in the 4th circuit, in Kendall v Howard County, Maryland, 09-2304. It was argued on December 9, 2010. A bill is pending in the legislature to provide that the middle initial must not necessarily be included on the petition, even if it is on the registration records (or vice versa).