Voters who are fed up with the two dominant political parties often decide not to vote out of protest at the lack of choices being offered at the ballot. Choosing not to participate in any election is a fundamental aspect of the right to vote, but failing to vote in Ohio triggers a process that removes many people from the rolls of registered voters. A recent entry at SCOTUSblog notes that the Libertarian National Committee filed an amicus brief in the case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit is being waged over whether Ohio’s voter purge practices violate federal law.
“The Libertarian National Committee suggests that Ohio’s rule also disproportionately affects voters who do not support the two major political parties,” writes SCOTUSblog reporter Amy Howe. “Those voters, it contends, ‘are particularly likely to engage in principled non-voting,’ but the Ohio rule punishes them for not voting by dropping them from the rolls. When that happens, it explains, such voters are not only unable to vote, but they are also ‘ineligible to sign ballot access petitions under state law (i.e., unable to help their preferred candidates, parties, and initiatives make it onto the ballot in future elections), unable to be identified and contacted by candidate campaigns that rely on the state’s voter registration records and invisible to pollsters and others who measure public opinion by seeking the views of registered voters.’”
The Ohio state government interprets federal law regarding voter registration in a way that allows the state to purge voters from registration rolls if they haven’t voted in the prior two elections. This creates artificial barriers to achieving and maintaining ballot access, as the Libertarian Party of Ohio has unfortunately found. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, however, has ruled that Ohio’s interpretation is erroneous, and the purge from voter rolls can’t take place until four years of non-voting have elapsed.
“Like many states, Ohio has engineered its laws and practices to protect its two-party system,” the amicus brief explains. “Ballot access laws make it extremely costly and difficult for minor political parties and minor candidates to win space on Ohio’s ballots. Because of Ohio’s restrictive access laws and mechanisms, even minor parties in Ohio that are capable of achieving ballot access are often stripped of their status. They must begin the whole process anew. This is precisely what has happened to the LPO.”
Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for the information on this lawsuit.