By Marc Kovac
Floor votes in the Ohio House and Senate are expected today on legislation controlling how minor parties and candidates qualify for the ballot, a week after lawmakers moved an incorrectly amended version of the bill.
A conference committee of the two chambers met Tuesday to review Senate Bill 193 and outlined the process for moving forward.
Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, primary sponsor of the law changes and chairman of the six-member panel, hoped the Republican-controlled committee could reach a consensus by early today, in time for a final vote in the two chambers shortly thereafter. Gov. John Kasich would have to sign it before midnight in order for the bill to take effect before the filing deadline for next year’s primary election.
SB 193 would codify petition circulating requirements for Libertarians, Green Party candidates and other minor parties. As written, the legislation would block minor parties from participating in next year’s primary but give them until midyear to collect signatures to qualify for the November election.
During Tuesday’s conference committee hearing, Seitz proposed adopting the Senate version of the legislation but postponing the full effect until 2015. For next year’s general election, he suggested reduced signature requirements — about 28,000 for minor parties, versus about 56,000 that would be required thereafter, for example.
Proponents say the legislation is needed because existing state law was ruled unconstitutional about seven years ago, leaving minor party placement on ballots up to the secretary of state.
But opponents say the law changes are being moved quickly through the legislature to protect Republican incumbents in next year’s general election, making it harder for minor parties and candidates to reach the electorate.
The Libertarian Party has already said it will file suit if Kasich signs the legislation as-is.