COLUMBUS — Seven years after the federal courts struck down the thresholds for minor parties to access the Ohio ballot, lawmakers will again try to set limits.
Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati) introduced Senate Bill 193 last week, and the measure will get its first hearing Wednesday.
At first glance, the bill makes it easier for so-called “third parties” to appear on the ballot with their labels, at least compared to where Ohio law stood before it was struck down.
But the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and Socialist parties already have a place on the state ballot thanks to a directive issued in January by Secretary of State Jon Husted. They may not under the new restrictions.
“The reason why the status quo is so generous is there was no law for Secretary Brunner or Secretary Husted to enforce,” Mr. Seitz said. “Sure (the third parties) like the status quo, because in effect it is automatic recognition by reason of legislative negligence for failing to correct an unconstitutional state law for seven years.”
In 2006 a federal appeals court declared the prior limits to be unconstitutional. Another federal court in 2011 specifically put the Libertarian Party on the 2012 presidential ballot.
The bill redefines “minor political party” to be one whose candidate garnered 3 to 20 percent of the vote during the last presidential or gubernatorial election.
To qualify for the ballot, a candidate must file signatures equivalent to 1 percent of those who voted in the last presidential or gubernatorial election, and at least 500 of those signatures must come from at least eight of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts.
“That’s to ensure that a minor party has some modicum of statewide support so that it’s not limited to one little corner of the state,” Mr. Seitz said.
The petitions would have to be filed 125 days before the general election compared to well before the primary election under prior law.
Aaron Keith Harris, spokesman for the Ohio Libertarian Party and a potential candidate for secretary of state next year, said the party likes the 3 percent minimum requirement better than the 5 percent under prior law for a minor party to keep its place on the ballot.
But he realizes it would fail to qualify for the ballot in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Its candidate garnered less than 1 percent of the 2012 presidential vote.
Last week, a former Republican state representative from Bowling Green, Charlie Earl, launched his Libertarian campaign for governor.
The party believes, in part because of the popularity of Ron Paul, that it has demonstrated sufficient support in Ohio.
Although the party has endorsed potential medical marijuana and legalized same-sex marriage ballot issues, it believes fiscally conservative members of the Republican Party, angered by Mr. Kasich’s support for expanding Medicaid, will be drawn to the Libertarian candidate.
“We are the center of American politics …,” Mr. Harris said. “We are drawing from both parties, but John Kasich has the most to lose.”
Democrats are expected to nominate Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
“(Secretary of State Jon Husted) would like to see the legislature pass a constitutional bill that will provide guidance for him in administering this process so that he’s not in the position of having to make judgment calls on these issues,” said spokesman Matt McClellan.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.