A Republican Senator has proposed new rules for minor party candidates that would take effect for next year’s big statewide elections. But one of the parties that would be affected says it’s a strategy to keep its candidates out of next year’s tough elections.
The bill from Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati is aimed dealing with a federal circuit court decision from 2008, striking down Ohio’s current minor party ballot access law. It changes the requirement that minor parties file their petitions for the ballot from 120 days before the primary to 125 days before the general election. Seitz says this law will help minor parties mount better campaigns.
“Frankly they will have more time because the major party candidates will have been selected some months previously," says Seitz. "So they can wait until the major party candidates are selected before they have to file their organizational papers. The entire new bill is far more generous towards minor parties than was the previous law.”
But the Libertarian Party of Ohio isn’t pleased. Aaron Keith Harris is the Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State. He likes that the law reduces a requirement that a minor party must get 5% of the vote in the most recent major election to 3% to continue to be eligible for the ballot. But that’s about all he likes.
“But the petitioning requirements, a lot of the nuts and bolts – there are already lots and lots of details that are very difficult to comply with," says Harris. "That’s going to become more complicated. Our legal team is looking at it now, our legal team that’s beat the state three times in federal court.”
And Harris says the proposed law intends to be an obstacle for the Libertarian Party, which he says will siphon off votes from disgruntled Republicans who are angry with the policies of Gov. John Kasich. Seitz says he started working on this proposal in 2010, so he says that’s not the case.
“I mean the only way it court hurt the Libertarian candidate is we now will have a law to enforce. I’m sure they like the current state of the law, which is that there is no law to enforce. But having no law to enforce is not the most ideal situation.”
But Harris says this amounts to the two major parties controlling the process by making unfair rules to keep power from minor parties, at a time when he says voters want other choices.
“People want an option from this nonsense. Whether they ultimately choose us or not, we’re going do to our best. We have demonstrated that we belong in the ballgame, and the fact that they’re trying to kick us out of the ballgame should tell you all you need to know about this bill.”
The bill appears on a fast track. It was proposed last week, and it will have its first hearing on Wednesday – there are bills that were proposed earlier this year that have yet to be assigned to committees.