COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday swiftly signed into law a bill imposing restrictions on minor political parties’ access to Ohio’s ballot.
The governor had to move quickly to sign the measure to ensure the 90-day waiting period for the law to take effect will have expired by Feb. 5, the deadline for candidates to file for the 2014 primary. But the swift action may play into the narrative of critics who’ve dubbed it the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.”
Senate Bill 193 imposes new signature thresholds for the Libertarian, Green, and other so-called “third parties” to get on Ohio’s ballot and then a subsequent election performance standard to stay there with the Republican and Democratic parties.
A federal court had struck down some of Ohio’s prior restrictions as unconstitutional.
“I know for one reason or another people will publicly say that this is not fair,” Rep. Matt Huffman (R., Lima) said. “I think privately some of the minor parties are saying, ‘Gee, that’s a better deal than we thought we would get.’”
The Libertarian Party of Ohio has vowed to quickly challenge the new law in federal court.
The measure is just one of several election-related bills on the move.
The Senate also voted 22-11 for Senate Bill 205, which would prohibit any public official other than the secretary of state from mass-mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters. The secretary of state could do it only in even-numbered years and only if the General Assembly appropriates the money.
It also requires all five fields on an absentee ballot envelope — name, address, date of address, a driver’s license number or last four digits of a Social Security number, and signature — to be complete for the ballot to be valid. The measure goes to the House.
As for the minor parties’ bill, the House voted 51-46 and the Senate 21-12 to send the bill to the governor. No Democrat supported the bill, and several Republicans joined opposition. Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) was among them.
Mr. Gardner said he wanted to provide for a primary election for minor parties in 2014. The calendar set up by the final bill sets the deadline for a minor party to file signatures to have its label on the ballot at 125 days before the general election, precluding a minor-party primary.
“I do believe we should have standards in law, but I just didn’t feel that this bill went far enough to get my support,” Mr. Gardner said.
In 2014, minor parties must submit enough signatures of registered voters to equal at least 0.5 percent of the vote from the last presidential or gubernatorial election, about 28,000 based on the 2012 election. Of those, 500 would have to come from each of half of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts.
Once it qualifies for the 2014 ballot, the party could stay there for four years as long as its candidate for governor in 2014 or president in 2016 gets at least 2 percent of the Ohio vote. That’s double what the Libertarian presidential candidate got in 2012.
Beginning in 2015, the signature requirement to get the party recognized on the ballot would climb to 1 percent, or roughly 56,000. The candidate’s subsequent vote performance to stay on the ballot for the next four years would be 3 percent.
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