Ohio Republicans Attempt to Eliminate Minor Parties; Libertarians and Greens Push Back


Credit: Nestle, CC BY NC ND

A bill in Ohio that effectively derails any ongoing minor party campaigns and may have long-term repercussions for such parties was approved by the state senate last week. Libertarians and Greens in the state, who called the Republican-backed bill "The John Kasich Protection Act," believe it is unconstitutional and are fighting to stop it.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, who presented Senate Bill 193 as an emergency measure in September, argued that the current state of affairs is like "the wild, wild West" (despite the fact that all minor party votes in the 2012 presidential election added up to 1.6 percent of the total count). He said:

Obviously, if you are in one of 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 Associated Press explained that S.B. 193, which heads to the Ohio House of Representatives this week, would require minor parties acquire "more than 56,000 signatures using last year's election numbers. To remain a qualified political party, groups must get 3 percent of the total votes cast in the following gubernatorial or presidential election."

Dr. Bob Fitrakis, a political science professor and former Green Party candidate, believes that the bill is unconstitutional and has already testified at several hearings about it. He said his party will sue the state if necessary. "They're punishing us for not meeting a nonexistent standard in 2012. … They're throwing everyone off the ballot who didn't meet this standard that wasn't in existence. It's a clear violation of due process." He added, "They'll be throwing two elected [Green Party] officials off their ballots based off their party designation."

"[The Republicans] are clearly going after the Libertarians… who have some tea party support," Fitrakis said. "We're collateral damage." All but one Republican voted for S.B. 193, while no Democrat did. 

Libertarian Party of Ohio Spokesman Aaron Keith Harris also believes the legislation is unconstitutional. He pointed to LPO v. Blackwell, which in 2006 struck down a similar ballot access law. He contended that it is unreasonable to hold a state party accountable for the votes earned by a national party candidate. Harris confirmed that the Libertarian Party is attending hearings to contest the legislation.

"I raise my eyebrow about why they're doing this now," said Harris. He debunked Seitz's "wild West" claim, stating that minor parties have been operating without problem for years. He also noted that the bill was introduced the same day Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charles Earl announced his candidacy.

Earl, who was previously a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, stated that the law will disenfranchise the "roughly 50 percent of voters in Ohio who are unaffiliated" with either major party. Kasich's "conservative and tea party base are fleeing" because of the governor's track record of expanding the scope of government in Ohio.

A Gallup poll published Friday suggests that many Americans want more options beside the two major parties. Sixty percent of respondents believe Republicans and Democrats "do such a poor job that a third party is needed."