Thursday, September 8, 2011

Memo to the General Assembly: Get it right this time

For the third time in five years, the Libertarian Party of Ohio has won a lawsuit to gain ballot access.

Judge Algernon Marbley granted the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s request for a preliminary injunction in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Husted that protects ballot access for the party through 2012, including for Libertarian candidates already on the November 2011 ballot in Akron and Troy. (The previous cases are Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Blackwell [2006] and Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Brunner [2008, case merged with Moore v. Brunner]).

The opinion states that Ohio's ballot access laws (Ohio Revised Code sections 3501.01 and 3517.01) cannot be justified on constitutional grounds, but rather operate to protect the Democrats and Republicans from competing ideas and candidates. In particular, Judge Marbley states that requiring a minor party filing deadline 90 days before the primary, coupled with a signature requirement of 1% of the voters in the last gubernatorial or presidential election forces minor parties to recruit candidates and circulate petitions at a time when people are not interested in politics. The opinion is 12 pages long and very easy to read. It gives an interesting history of ballot access in Ohio, with a few references to the same struggle in other states. In Judge Marbley's view, Ohio has a long history of suppressing minor party ballot access, and among the larger states, has the least diversity in political party options.

The injunction was specifically addressed to the Libertarian Party of Ohio. It is not clear how much it will help the Constitution, Green, and Socialist Parties. (Click on the Alternative Parties tab under the masthead for additional information on all four parties).

To her credit, former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner got the message, and granted ballot access to six parties in 2010; but the Republicans in the General Assembly tried earlier this year to trim it back with HB 194. (Applicable text is incorporated in the Ohio Revised Code references above).

The Libertarian Party is 40 years old and appears on the ballot in 31 states. While it currently has only 7,000 voters in Ohio, that number is growing. There are several local officials elected as Libertarians, and voters will elect more this year. We are not going away. Get over it, and get it right.

Virtual buckeye to Bill Yarbrough

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