Liberarian Party

Ohio to Libertarian Party: You Can't Qualify for the Ballot By Winning Votes Since We Won't Let You on the Ballot

One dissenting justice on Ohio Supreme Court says that the group of people who got Johnson on the ballot deserve ballot status even if their candidate appeared as an "independent."


Because of Ohio's long fight against easily letting third parties on their ballot, using some highly questionable tactics, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 2016, appeared on the Ohio ballot as an "independent" rather than with his proper Party identification.

Johnson got 3.17 percent of the Ohio vote, which would normally, in Ohio law, qualify the Party who got it for ballot access, and the ability to have a ballot primary, next time around.

However, according to an opinion from the Ohio Supreme Court last week, Johnson's vote total doesn't count for the L.P.'s future ballot access since the state wouldn't let him on the ballot with his proper Party identification.

From the infuriating decision:

statutes make clear that a political group cannot obtain recognized political-party status based on votes obtained by independent candidates. As Husted [Ohio's secretary of state] notes, the 3 percent vote required for a group to "remain[ ]" a political party must be received by the "political party's candidate," as specified in R.C. 3501.01(F)(2)(a). Fockler's [who sued on behalf of the L.P.] candidates could not be the "political party's candidate[s]" because they were nominated and appeared on the ballot as independent candidates, unaffiliated with any political party….As Husted aptly states, only already-recognized political parties are eligible to "remain[ ]" a political party.

One Supreme Court Justice, William O'Neill, dissented and thought the L.P. should have won their ballot access because:

Husted[]opposes [the L.P.'s] request based on the fact that [its] candidates did not run under the Libertarian Party banner in 2016. That is, at best, circular reasoning. It would not have been possible for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld to run as the candidates of the Libertarian Party as there was no such party recognized by the state of Ohio. That is what this lawsuit is all about…..

At issue in this matter are the statutory definitions of the terms "political party" in R.C. 3517.01(A)(1) and "minor political party" in R.C. 3501.01(F)(2). Respondent would like us to read these provisions together to conclude that relators cannot be a "political party" because they do not qualify as a "minor political party." This interpretation is unreasonable. The umbrella section immediately above the definition of "minor political party," R.C. 3501.01(F), defines "political party" as "any group of voters meeting the requirements set forth in section 3517.01 of the Revised Code for the formation and existence of a political party."….

Using the same phrase, "any group of voters"…, R.C. 3517.01(A)(1) provides that a group of voters may acquire political party status by meeting either of two alternative requirements, (a) or (b). R.C. 3517.01(A)(1)(a) provides that the definition of "political party" is met if "at the most recent regular state election, the group polled for its candidate for governor in the state or nominees for presidential electors at least three per cent of the entire vote cast for that office."…That is exactly what happened here….

[The people suing for ballot status] allege that they are the "group of voters" that nominated Johnson and Weld to appear on the most recent presidential-election ballot, that the candidates they nominated received 3.17 percent of the total votes cast in that election, and that they would now like recognition as a political party.

[The State of Ohio] denies only one of these allegations in his answer: that [the people suing] were the people who nominated Johnson and Weld. [They] have provided more than sufficient evidence in support of their statement that they were the group that nominated Johnson and Weld,…Whether or not [those suing] want to be called the "Libertarian Party"— they do not say so in their complaint—is not dispositive. That they received support from a group calling itself the Libertarian Party of Ohio is equally irrelevant. The Revised Code says nothing about that. These five people could call themselves the Pizza Party, for all that matters…

Regardless, those suing should be able to get the Party name of their choice on the ballot next time, because of Johnson's vote totals. Alas, the majority of the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed.

Ohio's election code, for those who want to play along at home.

Via the indispensable Ballot Access News.