Minor Parties Unite Against GOP-Driven Ballot Restrictions
The Ohio Libertarian Party offered strong words for Republican lawmakers who are attempting to set tougher ballot standards for minor parties.
"If they pass it, we will be in federal court within the hour," said Aaron Keith Harris, spokesman for the Ohio Libertarian Party. "This bill is the John Kasich Reelection Protection Act. It is an attack on voters in Ohio, taking away all their choices in the 2014 election."
Daniel Barbour from the Constitution Party agrees.
"Don't crush our freedom of speech or in my case my desire to have my voice in government," said Barbour. "I can understand from their point of view, they will soon start losing elections. Well, sorry, that's how it is."
Since a court decision in 2006, Ohio Secretaries of State have allowed about any minor party to be on the ballot. Now, GOP lawmakers want to reinstate qualifications.
The proposed bill would mandate a minimum of 56,000 valid signatures be required to qualify for the 2014 statewide ballot. A third party would then need a minimum of three percent of the statewide vote in the general election in order to continue on future ballots.
"The minor parties have been the beneficiaries of the current lawless state of affairs for the last seven years, and if I were them, I'd like to continue that lawless state of affairs awhile longer," said GOP state senator Bill Seitz. "One of the principal arguments they are making is that we should delay this bill until January 2015. That suggests to me they know the jig is up and just want to postpone the day of reckoning."
But the Ohio ACLU says putting in new rules now for the 2014 election is like changing a football game during halftime.
"The day this bill is signed, minor political parties are abolished in Ohio," said Gary Daniels of the Ohio ACLU. "There are more unaffiliated voters in Ohio than there are Republicans and Democrats. I think there are more people looking at third parties as a viable option to vote for. If they would merely apply this so it goes into effect in January, 2015, after the next election if would be much better."
Seitz denies that the bill is being quickly pushed through the GOP dominated statehouse to benefit Gov. John Kasich in his reelection bid.
"You know my record, I'm not a particularly close confidant of the governor," said Seitz. "Maybe this falls into the category of be careful what you ask for because you might just get it, because many of us believe that the Libertarians will qualify for the ballot even with the thresholds we've proposed. This is about restoring the rule of law."
Libertarians argue that the publicity this issue is receiving could actually benefit its statewide slate of candidates next year.
"Voters can see through this so be careful what you wish for because this is going to be a major year for the Libertarian Party," said Harris. "People are sick of the two alternatives they have and they've come to expect this sort of dishonesty and incompetence from the Republican Party and they want an alternative."