Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Friday that Libertarians Charlie Earl and Steven Linnabary won’t be on the May ballot in the races for governor and attorney general, respectively. The decision comes after hearings last week to protest the signatures that got them there. The ruling was a main topic of the Libertarians’ convention this weekend in Columbus, where Charlie Earl was one of the headline speakers.
“We filed in federal court on Friday night," said Earl. "And we filed that this is a First Amendment abridgment of our rights to nominate our candidates. And what we’re talking about the primary. They invalidated us for the primary and we felt Libertarians ought to have a right to choose who their candidates are despite what has been described by some as an immaterial oversight.”
That “oversight” was the non-disclosure by two people hired to gather signatures that they were in fact being paid. Husted says his decision came from hearing officer Brad Smith’s conclusion that the signatures were invalid because paid circulators need to disclose who’s paying them. While Earl acknowledged that this costly mistake can’t happen again if Libertarians want to be contenders in elections, he says voters will suffer if Libertarians stay off the ballot.
“It was an oversight. It wasn’t an intentional deceit. It was an oversight. Somebody didn’t fill out the back of the petition form. I’ll deal with it. I’m an adult. I’ll go home and work on the farm. But I do believe the people of Ohio deserve a choice. And it’s not me. It’s the message, not the messenger that counts here.”
Libertarians claim their message is that they’re an alternative to both major political parties – but certainly Republicans and Democrats were watching this situation. But lawyers for those protesting the Libertarians’ place on the ballot had said circulators were paid by Democrats who wanted a conservative in the race against incumbent John Kasich. Libertarians admit they worked with Democrats, but say they also helped Democrat groups with their signature gathering efforts on a same-sex marriage amendment. Meanwhile, Libertarians claimed the protests were backed by Republicans who feared their candidates - Earl in particular. Republicans have said they weren’t involved in the protest filings.