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Published: Wednesday, 6/4/2014

Legal options trimmed for Libertarian Ohio governor candidate; federal court won't rehear case


COLUMBUS — A lawyer for the Libertarian Party of Ohio said a gubernatorial candidate still has a chance to get on November’s ballot despite a federal appeals court’s rejection of his latest request for a full hearing.

Attorney Mark Brown said the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was only one of the paths that candidate Charlie Earl was pursuing. The court today declined to grant a full hearing to Earl over his disqualification by Ohio’s elections chief.

Secretary of State Jon Husted disqualified Earl before the May primary after his nominating petitions were challenged. He agreed with a hearing officer who found that two Earl petitioners failed to properly disclose their employers.

Libertarians sought to reinstate Earl’s ballot status, arguing Husted’s decision was unconstitutional and conflicted with prior rulings of the office allowing them to submit signatures without declaring an employer.

A federal judge ruled against the party, saying the law they challenged “places only a minimal burden on political speech and the disclosures it requires are substantially related to Ohio’s significant interest in deterring and detecting fraud in the candidate petition process.”

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit upheld that decision, determining that Libertarians’ slim chances of a successful First Amendment challenge to Husted’s decision should bar the party from proceeding. The trio acknowledged that their decision could present “severe and irreparable harm” on the party and likely undermine its status as a ballot-qualified party in the state.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio sought a stay of that decision at the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied. The party returned to ask for a hearing before the full 6th Circuit; that request was rejected today.

But Brown said a district court could still determine Husted’s action is unconstitutional, qualifying him a spot in November.

Earl’s candidacy has the potential to draw votes from Republican Gov. John Kasich as he faces Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, in November. It’s expected to be among closely watched races around the country this fall.

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