Kasich dodges ballot bill

Defends signature threshold for minor parties


COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich said Thursday he did not request a bill moving through the legislature that would set new restrictions on minor parties’ access to the Ohio ballot.

But he defended the measure that ran into a glitch on its way to his desk Wednesday night.

“We haven’t had any law here for six or seven years,” the Republican governor said. “It you want to run as an independent, that’s good. Fine, you sign 2,500 signatures — or whatever it is.

“But if you want to be considered a major party, you ought to show you have a little scale and a little bit of mass,” he said. “I think that’s reasonable. We’ll see what happens with the Legislature.”

The Libertarian Party has vowed to sue in federal court if the governor signs the bill they’ve dubbed the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.” Democrats have done their best to make the label stick.

A six-member legislative conference committee is expected to meet to fix an apparent error that stalled the controversial bill. The GOP-controlled Senate had been poised Wednesday night to rubber-stamp changes made in the House that were considered necessary to garner enough GOP support.

But then state Sen. Eric Kearney (D., Cincinnati), the chamber’s Democratic leader, noticed that a particular provision had been dropped, despite House assurances it had been included.

“There were three drafts of amendments,” House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) said. “The one draft was not the appropriate one ... It was all our fault.”

Once the change is made, Senate Bill 193 is expected to sail swiftly though both chambers to the governor’s desk. It has yet to draw a single Democratic vote, and several Republicans have joined Democrats in opposing it.

A federal court in 2006 declared unconstitutional some of Ohio’s prior hurdles for minor-party labels to appear on the ballot. Compared to the invalidated law, getting onto Ohio’s ballot would be easier under the bill sponsored by state Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati).

But the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and Socialist parties now have spots on the 2014 ballot thanks to a directive issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in the absence of an enforceable law. They would lose those automatic spots under Senate Bill 193.

The signature threshold for a party to get on the ballot in the first place would be 0.5 percent of the vote from the latest presidential or gubernatorial election. That’s about 28,000 signatures, based on 2012 results. For the 2013 election only, the threshold would be a flat 10,000 signatures.

But the amended bill apparently omitted a distribution requirement that 500 of those signatures come from each of at least eight of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts — the provision expected to be restored by the conference committee appointed Thursday.

Once it gets onto the ballot, a minor party could stay on for four years as long as its candidate for either governor or president during that period gets at least 2 percent of the vote. That’s down from 5 percent under prior law, but 2 percent is still double what the Libertarian candidate for president got in Ohio last year.

The conference committee members include Senators Seitz, Edna Brown (D., Toledo), and Bill Coley (R., West Chester), and state Reps. Jim Buchy (R., Greenville), Matt Huffman (R., Lima), and Ron Gerberry (D., Canton).

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.