Photo of Judge Watson
In a major victory for Ohio’s four minor political parties, the so-called “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” was struck down on Tuesday, January 7, 2014. The Libertarian, Green and Constitution Parties had sued to stop the bill that would have banned their Party primaries. The parties would “suffer irreparable harm” if Senate Bill 193 (SB 193) was enforced by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson wrote in his opinion. Language in SB 193 disbanded the minor parties for not receiving two percent of a statewide vote in the 2012 election, even though there was no such requirement that year. Senator Bill Seiz (R-Cincinnati) introduced SB 193 the same day the Ohio Libertarians publicly announced their gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl’s nomination. A recent poll showed John Kasich and his Democratic opponent Ed Fitzgerald each running at 41 percent and Earl attracting 6 percent of the vote, presumably from voters who normally lean toward the conservative Kasich. This is the fourth straight victory for the Libertarian Party. They previously sued the State of Ohio in 2004, 2008 and 2011 to obtain party status and to continue ballot access. The Green Party sued successfully to gain official party recognition in 2008 and also included the then-Constitutional Law Party to be placed on the ballot as part of its agreement with the Ohio Secretary of State. Judge Watson noted in his opinion that five Libertarian candidates and one Green Party candidate had already filed to run for office in Ohio. All of their petitions would have been nullified on February 5, 2014, the deadline to submit petitions for the Ohio 2014 primary. Although provisions were made in the bill to allow minor parties to collect 28,000 signatures to regain official party status, it would have been impossible for the parties to collect that number in a single day. The result of that provision “…along with other provisions in the bill, is that minor parties must start from scratch to qualify for ballot access. Moreover, S.B. 193 completely eliminates minor parties’ access to the primary ballot,” Judge Watson wrote. Under Ohio law, the only way to join a political party is to vote for that party in the primary election. Judge Watson wrote that “stripping [the minor parties] of the opportunity to participate in the 2014 primary in these circumstances would be patently unfair.” The Ohio Libertarian Party received more than one million votes for their party candidates in 2010. But it would have been impossible for any of their voters or candidates to be actual registered party members had SB 193 gone into effect. The Ohio Green Party, which had two elected public officials in 2013 including a Cleveland City Council member, would not be allowed to label candidates as Greens in the 2014 election cycle. Judge Watson found that “…the present record supports a finding that the LPO [Libertarian Party of Ohio] as well as the OGP [Ohio Green Party], CPO [Constitution Party of Ohio] and Socialist Party possess significant community support.” Judge Watson based his opinion on the fact that the State of Ohio “retroactively” applied Senate Bill 193 to Ohio’s 2014 primary and general election, destroying the parties and their candidates who were in office or gathering petitions to file as candidates. Watson said, “The Ohio legislature moved the proverbial goalpost in the midst of the game.” ------------------- Bob Fitrakis is Co-Chair of the Ohio Green Party and was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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