By Marc Kovac
As promised, the Libertarian Party of Ohio filed suit in federal court to block a new state law that controls how minor parties qualify for the ballot.
The legal challenge, filed Friday, came two days after the Ohio House and Senate gave their final approval on Senate Bill 193, with Gov. John Kasich adding his signature hours later. It’s supposed to take effect in early February, in time for the filing deadline for next year’s primary.
“John Kasich and the Republicans in the General Assembly have overtly violated both the federal and Ohio constitutions by limiting democratic participation and choice for every Ohioan,” Aaron Keith Harris, Libertarian candidate for secretary of state and chairman of the party’s central committee, said in a released statement. “They’re afraid to compete fairly in the arena of ideas with a party that actually stands for individual freedom and fiscal responsibility, and SB 193 is their way of running from a fight that they simply can’t afford to have.”
SB 193 codifies petition-circulation requirements for Libertarians, Green Party candidates and other minor parties. It will block minor parties from participating in next year’s primary but gives them until midyear to collect signatures to qualify for the November election. The final version of the legislation also instituted lesser signature-gathering requirements for 2014.
Proponents say the legislation is needed because 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 state Legislature to protect Republican incumbents in next year’s general election, making it harder for minor parties and candidates to reach the electorate. They’re calling the legislation the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.
Kasich voiced his support for the law changes the day after he signed it.
“We would like to be able to control our own election laws and not have the judiciary have to decide that,” he said.
Asked about the potential lawsuit, the governor offered, “I have never even thought about it. ... I don’t get involved in the legal stuff.”