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Government and Politics


Bill tightens rules for minor parties to be on Ohio's ballot
The Ohio Senate passed a bill that mandates standards for minor parties to be officially recognized on Ohio ballots
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
Minor parties suspect the bill limiting their access to the ballot is an attempt to shut down a Libertarian challenge to Gov. Kasich.
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In The Region:

A bill that leaders of minor parties criticize for making it harder to for them to be recognized has passed the Ohio Senate.

Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports that opponents say the fight over the bill is just beginning.

LISTEN: Ending the 'Wild West' of minor parties?

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The bill would spell out rules and thresholds that minor parties must meet in order to be officially recognized as a party on the Ohio ballot. Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati says a previous law on minor party recognition was overturned by a federal court in 2006. So he says it’s high time lawmakers set new standards.

"Both (former) Secretary of State Brunner and Secretary of State Husted have had no law to enforce. This has resulted in defacto recognition without any requirement of qualification for those minor parties that were in existence at the time of the 2006 federal court decision.

"Obviously, if you are in those minor parties, you probably would like that current lawless state of affairs to continue because you get to stay on the ballot without demonstrating any modicum of support."

The magic number
Seitz’s bill would require a minor party to get about 56,000 voter signatures to be recognized as a party. And once it is recognized as such, its candidates would still have to get additional signatures to get on the ballot. The Republican and Democratic parties would not have to go through the process because they got enough votes for their presidential candidates in 2012.

Bob Fitrakis, co-chairman of the Green Party, insists, "This bill is about one thing – making it very easy for John Kasich to win re-election."

He maintains majority Republicans are “afraid democracy is going to break out in this state.”

Protecting Kasich from the Libertarians?
"You know we are really collateral damage as the Green Party. They are really going after the Libertarian Party because of its ties to the tea party and some of the issues (they oppose) that the governor has taken a stance on."

The Libertarian who wants to take on Gov. Kasich agrees.

"Maybe I’m being paranoid but I suspect it was all to favor John Kasich because he knows with us in the race, his chances for re-election and the ultimate run for the presidency has been jeopardized," says Charlie Earl. "Let me tell you – it still is."

Earl says candidates in his party have been gathering petition signatures to get on the ballot,  under current rules. And he says this legislation changes the rules at the last minute, making it nearly impossible for Libertarian candidates to comply. Earl says Seitz is "a tool of the governor and he showed it every second he was up there on the bench.

Claims of toadie and a lawsuit
"For someone who claimed the power of the legislative over the executive and overcoming the Secretary of State’s directives, he actually played the toadie for the governor in this event. So I hope he’s happy and they can live with it because we are coming after them – hammer and tongs."

Earl says his party will sue as soon as the bill is signed into law because it doesn’t give minor parties and their candidates enough time to comply. Seitz is not deterred. He says there’s no reason to pass a proposed amendment that would have delayed implementation of this bill for a year.

"To do what the amendment seeks would be to delay any correction for yet another year. Another year of wild, wild west. Another year of secretary of state fiat."

The Ohio Senate passed the bill 22 to 11, with Republicans voting for it and Democrats voting against it. It now goes to the Ohio House.

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