A bill that leaders of minor parties criticize for making it harder to get recognition on the ballot has passed the Ohio Senate. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports opponents say the fight over the bill is just beginning.
The new bill would spell out rules and thresholds minor parties must meet in order to be officially recognized as a party on the Ohio ballot. Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz 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 some standards for minor party designations.
"As a result of the lack of any enforceable law, both Secretary of State Brunner and Secretary of State Husted have had no law to enforce," Seitz said. "This has resulted in de facto 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 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."
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.
"This bill is about one thing – making it very easy for John Kasich to win re-election," says Bob Fitrakis, co chairman of the Green Party. He says majority Republicans are “afraid democracy is going to break out in this state.”
"We're collateral damage as the Green Party," Fitrakis says. "They're really going after the Libertarian Party because of its ties to the Tea Party and some of the issues that the governor has taken a stance on for the Affordable care act. That’s what this bill is about.
Charlie Earl, the Libetarian who wants to take on Gov. John 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," Earl says. "Let me tell you -- it still is."
Earl says candidates in his party have been gathering petition signatures to get on the ballot, operating under current rules. And he says this legislation changes the rules at the last minute, making it nearly impossible for Libertarian candidates to comply and still be on the ballot. Earl has fighting words for Sen. Seitz, the bill’s sponsor, after the legislation passed out of committee.
"He’s a tool of the governor and he showed it every second he was up there on the bench," Earl says. "You know, for somebody 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. And 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 immediately after this bill is signed into law because it doesn’t give minor parties and their candidates enough time to comply. Sen. 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," Seitz says. "Another year of wild, wild west. Another year of government by Secretary of State fiat."
The Ohio Senate agreed with Seitz and passed the bill 22 to 11 with Republicans voting for it, Democrats voting against it. The legislation now goes to the Ohio House.