Ohio Libertarians sue for ballot access

from the Ohio LP:

Libertarian Party of Ohio Sues for 1st Amendment Rights and Voting Freedoms

The Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) filed a lawsuit today in federal court seeking to overturn a portion of the recently passed election overhaul bill. HB 194 contained ballot access “remedies” that returned petitioning thresholds to the same level that existed prior to the LPOs successful 2006 lawsuit. The 2006 suit resulted in that law being struck down. The key difference between the new law and the 2006 law is the additional 30 days to submit signatures. The 2006 case was LPO v Blackwell.

The LPO also sued and won in a 2008 case titled LPO v Brunner. The core issue in that case was a directive issued by then Secretary of State Brunner which attempted to fill the void in the law resulting from the 2006 case. The federal judge in 2008 ruled that the directive and the language of the directive were both unconstitutional. Following that case, Secretary Brunner placed the LPO onto the ballot for four consecutive years, a record in modern Ohio history.

During committee hearings in front of both the House and the Senate, Vice Chair Michael Johnston provided oral and written testimony calling on the General Assembly to produce reasonable ballot access laws. “The bill signed by Governor Kasich is clearly unconstitutional based on previous precedent. The ballot access restrictions in HB 194 are worse than the ones struck down in 2008, and are barely an improvement on the ones from prior to 2006. We feel quite confident that this effort will be equally as successful as our previous lawsuits,” noted Johnston.

The new ballot access provisions of HB 194, if immediately implemented, would remove 66% of Ohio’s political parties from the ballot and not allow for sufficient time to get back on the ballot prior to the 2012 presidential race. In order to requalify for 2012, parties would have just 3.5 months to collect more than 40,000 valid signatures. Numerous precedents exist nationally for such laws to have delayed implementation, but Ohio’s General Assembly chose not to include a delay provision in the new law. The LPO requested such a decision from Secretary of State Husted, and was informed that the Secretary of State’s office does not have the legal authority to delay implementation of the law without such authorization from the legislature.

Since 2008, both Johnston and Chair Kevin Knedler have visited the Statehouse many times to discuss this issue with lawmakers. “We’ve worked on building positive relationships with representatives [and senators],” said Knedler. “In fact, it went so well that the House passed everything we asked for in House Bill 260 without comment from either Republicans or Democrats in 2010.” That bill went on to die in the Senate.

“It is absurd that, in the United States of America, we need to fight for ballot access laws – but at least we can do so through the court system here rather than putting soldiers’ lives on the line as the US has done in so many other regions of the world, most recently Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll keep fighting for free, open, fair, and honest elections until every Ohioan has an even chance to participate in the political process,” concluded Johnston.

The current case, LPO v Husted, was filed in the United States District Court – Southern District of Ohio. It is case # 2:11-722.

For additional information or an interview, please contact LPO Chair Kevin Knedler by emailing Chair@LPO.org. To contribute, volunteer, run for office, or learn more about the Libertarian Party, please visit www.LPO.org.