It doesn’t seem to matter who sits in the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office when it comes to ballot access. Both major parties, Democrat and Republican, are in agreement and dedicated to the proposition that no other party should appear on the ballot so the Libertarian Party of Ohio has filed its third lawsuit in five years against the state.
First there was Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Blackwell, 462 F.3d 579 (6th Cir. 2006), which succeeded in invalidating Ohio’s requirement that new parties, in order to qualify for Ohio’s ballot, collect signatures from a number of voters equal to 1 percent of the vote in the last gubernatorial or presidential election — a number that would have totaled more than 40,000 signatures in 2008. Blackwell also invalidated Ohio’s early filing deadline for new parties, which fell 120 days before the March primary, Nov. 5, 2007, for the 2008 general election.
When the General Assembly failed to act after the Blackwell ruling, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, administratively adopted a new signature requirement and early filing deadline for the 2008 election. The secretary’s new requirement demanded that new parties gather a number of signatures from voters equal to 0.5 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial or presidential election, which for the 2008 election translated to more than 20,000 signatures. The secretary also required that these signatures be submitted 100 days before the March primary, Nov. 26, 2007.
A federal court, in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Brunner, 462 F. Supp.2d 1006 (S.D. Ohio 2008), also ruled those requirements unconstitutional and the LPO made it on the ballot for four consecutive years.
In comes House Bill 194, which contains ballot access “remedies” that returns petitioning thresholds to the same level that existed before the LPO’s successful 2006 lawsuit. The key difference between the new law and the 2006 law is an additional 30 days to submit signatures.
On Tuesday, the party filed a complaint in federal court in Columbus (which can found at the bottom of this post), which will be known as Libertarian Party of Ohio v Husted (case No. 2011-722).
All three federal lawsuits stem from the same problem of the state giving preferential ballot-access treatment to the two major parties and making it difficult for other parties to have equal ballot access.
According to Libertarian Party officials, the new ballot access provisions of H.B. 194 would remove 66 percent of Ohio’s political parties from the ballot and not allow for sufficient time to get back on the ballot before the 2012 presidential race.
In order to requalify for 2012, parties would have just 3.5 months to collect more than 40,000 valid signatures.
Libertarian Party of Ohio Vice Chairman Michael Johnston said:
“It is absurd that, in the United States of America, we need to fight for ballot access laws — but at least we can do so through the court system here rather than putting soldiers’ lives on the line as the U.S. has done in so many other regions of the world, most recently Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll keep fighting for free, open, fair, and honest elections until every Ohioan has an even chance to participate in the political process.”
It’s time that ballot access laws stop separating the major parties from the minor parties. Every political party should have equal access to the ballot that is not tied to the collection of thousands of signatures.
Governments claim such laws are needed to keep the ballots from becoming unwieldy. But the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election saw some 135 candidates on the ballot and no problems reported.
In reality, such laws are merely a way for those in power to remain in power.
Ballot access restrictions also violate several human rights, including equal protection of the laws, free speech, right of political association, and the right to a republican form of government, to name just a few.
The time is now for all state’s to adopt ballot access laws that make the ballot accessible to all, not just those in power.
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