Libertarian Party

Ohio Libertarians Say GOP Schemed To Keep LP Candidates Off State Ballot

|

alonglens/Flickr

Charles Earl is trying to run for governor of Ohio. A native of Bowling Green, the one-time Republican state representative now represents the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO). As the LPO's gubernatorial candidate, Earl would challenge current Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrat Ed Fitzgerald come November 2014, possibly siphoning off dissatisfied Ohio voters from Kasich. But Earl's candidacy is currently in limbo. 

Last week, Earl received a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted disqualifying him from the May primary ballot. Earl was disqualified on the grounds that those circulating petitions for his inclusion weren't Libertarian Party members and/or failed to disclose themselves as paid LPO employees.

Ohio requires candidate petitions to be circulated by members of the same political party as the candidate (with party affiliation determined by how one voted in recent primaries—if a dues-paying member of the LPO voted for Republican Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential primary, for instance, he or she can't circulate or sign petitions for libertarian candidates) or by someone unaffiliated with any party. Several Democrats allegedly helped circulate Earl's petitions.

A biggest number of Earl's signatures were collected by Oscar C. Hatchett Jr., a "professional petitioner" paid by the signature. There's nothing illegal about that: Paying people to collect signatures is just fine. But under Ohio law, petitioners to list, among other things, their "employer." The secretary of state alleges that Hatchett failed to list the LPO as his employer on this form.

But was the LPO his employer? Hatchett and the party say no. The LPO is now challenging Husted's ruling in federal court, partially on the grounds that petitioners were independent contractors who couldn't reasonably be expected to consider the LPO their employer.

The LPO alleges that the petition circulator employer rules are selectively enforced by the secretary of state's office. Hatchett told a federal court last week that he's been collecting signatures professionally for 12 years, never listed his employer, and never had his signatures challenged before. A spokesman for Husted's office said the rule was only enforced when a petition was challenged. 

So about that challenge: The LPO claims it's the Ohio Republican Party deliberately trying to keep Earl off the ballot. Libertarian paranoia? Not entirely.

Last week, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said that the state GOP was involved in initiating a challenge to Earl's petition. This week, however, Borges backtracked. He told the U.S. District Court in Columbus on Monday that he had been under stress and misspoken previously. 

The man who actually challenged Earl's petition is Gregory Felsoci, a resident of Rocky River, Ohio, and a member of the Libertarian Party. Why would Felsoci fight to keep his own party's candidates off the ballot? No one is quite sure…including, possibly, Felsoci.

Aaron K. Harris, communications director of the LPO, says that Felsoci's Thursday testimony to the District Court was "sketchy" and vague. "I've never seen a witness as clueless as this guy. He didn't even know that he'd filed a protest," says Harris. 

According to Harris' account of Felsoci's testimony (which isn't available online), a friend of Felsoci's had shown him a printout he'd picked up at a coffee shop about how the Democrats were collecting signatures for Libertarian candidates. The friend, John Musca, allegedly said Felsoci should do something about it since he was a registered Libertarian and could; Felsoci agreed. A lawyer from Zeigger, Tigges and Little contacted Felsoci the next day. 

"Falsoci didn't actively seek this," says Harris, adding that Felsoci seemed to believe he was signing a petition, not filing a protest to one. "We're assuming some Republican candidate or the party itself asked [the law firm] to do this." He thinks Borges lied under oath.

The actual level of involvement here from the Ohio Republican and Democratic parties is still unclear. But it seems probable there was some involvement. And ultimately the LPO is getting played. The state's major parties are willing to use Libertarians when politically convenient, and dismiss (or dismantle) their candidacies when they could cost votes. Perverting democracy for partisan gain seems to have become standard practice in the state.  

In November 2013, congressional Republicans passed a bill that would have made it even harder for third parties to get on Ohio ballots. The LPO sued. In January 2014, Federal District Judge Michael H. Watson issued an injunction blocking the new rules for ballot access. 

Judge Watson also heard the LPO's case this time around. He expects to have a ruling by the end of this week. Harris says he's "optimistic" about the decision. 

NEXT: Paul Detrick on Cellphone Justice and the Killing of Kelly Thomas

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The man who actually challenged Earl’s petition is Gregory Felsoci, a resident of Rocky River, Ohio, and a member of the Libertarian Party. Why would Felsoci fight to keep his own party’s candidates off the ballot?

    a member of the Libertarian Party

    What is there to be confused about?

  2. Felsoci seemed to believe he was signing a petition, not filing a protest to one.

    You signed something you didn’t fully understand?

    1. Sounds like he should run for Congress.

  3. Perverting democracy for partisan gain seems to have become standard practice in the state roughly everywhere.

    FIFY

    1. Perverting democracy for partisan gain seems to have become always been standard practice roughly everywhere. With emphasis on the “roughly”!

  4. The Ohio laws seem idiotic. Who wrote them? Oh, right. Incumbents.

  5. The guys who scheme to keep third parties off the ballot seem very committed to doing a good job. Could Reason hire them to fix the server?

  6. If reason can’t be arsed to fix the commenting system, I can’t be arsed to stay on topic.

    So, what do I get if AU beats Wisconsin tomorrow? A visit from Warty?

  7. Well, duh! I mean, all Libertarian candidates do is steal votes from Republicans! Those votes belong to Republicans! They are theirs! Libertarians have no business in elections! Fucking thieves!

    /Ann Coulter

    1. They have a property right to those votes. Just like the democrats have a property right to minority votes.

  8. Put two libertarians in a locked room, there’s gonna be a fight.

  9. under Ohio law, candidate petitions must be circulated by members of the same political party as the candidate (with party affiliation determined by how one voted in recent primaries…

    Uhm, WTF happened to secret ballots?

    Also, I was hoping the squirrels had ended their cocaine fueled orgy in the reason server room, but apparently not. I still have to log out and back in periodically to make comments.

    1. Uhm, WTF happened to secret ballots?

      They do it off of registration. GA is an open primary state and the parties seem to be informed on which ballot I chose.
      Presumably the actual vote is “secret”.

    2. In jurisdictions with some form of gov’t-kept party enrollment, it’s part of the voter registration list, which is a public record, along with the voter’s address of residence and signature. I’m working off such a roll now (no sigs, but they’re legally available for inspection) to get sigs for a party nomination. In most states with open primaries that I know of, voting in a party’s primary is considered enrolling in that party.

      This is why voter registr’n is such a gold mine for identity theft. The board of elections has on file a name, address, in some cases age, and a signature specimen. Under the Help Americans Vote Act, there may be other identifying info in the records though I don’t know about public access.

  10. Why would Felsoci fight to keep his own party’s candidates off the ballot?

    Maybe not the right kind of libertarian?

    Libertarian*

    *I don’t have anything against libertarians, I saw this at The Daily Paul and thought it funny based on some of the arguments I see here.

  11. I don’t know why anyone has a problem with recognising that an LP candidate will generally get libertarian leaning Reopublican votes that will lower the GOP candidates vote totals while not garnering enough votes to actually get elected.

    While some refer to this as ‘stealing votes’–a phrase which seems to get lots of people all knotty in their panties–the process does happen. It is undeniable.

    And Republicans have a problem with it–even Libertarian leaning Republicans–because the LP candidate will not gather enough votes to actually get elected.

    Whe one hears that Democrats are trying to ‘get out the vote’ for a LP candidate it only makes it worse. Because Democrats loathe libertarians. And we know this. Which makes the process all the more plain.

    Kasich rode Tea Party resentment to victory and then turned around and pissed in their faces. And then he, and the establishment wing of the Ohio GOP decided to see to it that the Tea Partiers couldn’t go anywhere else–and couldn’t usurp control either. And the Tea Parties couldn’t do a damned thing about it because they’re as organized as a bag of cats.

    It a pity that a movement that can rouse action but little organization is so disparaged by so many in a movement that can organize but finds itself woefully short of action.

    1. Actually it’s very deniable. There is no evidence that “3rd” parties take votes away from the legacy parties and in fact there is quite a bit of evidence to support the theory that the legacy parties take votes from “3rd” parties. If you look at polling data you see that “3rd” party candidates tend to under preform. That’s the old party taking votes.

  12. Who is considered a “circulator”? In NY petition signatures must be witnessed, but the witness doesn’t have to be the one holding the clipboard or soliciting the signature. In some other jurisdictions I know of, the signature doesn’t even need to be directly witnessed at the time of signing, but a gov’t official has to swear a “proof” that the person who handed in the signatures represented them as such, and the gov’t official then checks the signatures.

    In juridictions with similar direct or indirect witnessing requirements, it is common to limit eligible witnesses for a primary petition (“designating petition” in NY) to members or enrollees of that party. This is supposed to deter parties or outsiders from interfering in each other’s nominating process. It is a bit odd, however, that someone can become a “member” of a party by voting in their open primary, and then precluded from involvement in another party’s nominating process; that doesn’t seem to have much deterrence value against cross-party interference and rather seems to function as a mere “gotcha”.

    However, I doubt many jurisdictions allow pay per sig to either the signer or the collector, although it’s common practice; it’s considered equivalent to paying for votes. Some that I know of also forbid representing to a signer that the collector is paid per sig.

  13. Are these Ohio Republicans those “good Republicans” everyone tells me about when trying to convince me to abandon the Libertarian Party?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.