Ohio map

Back in August, I had the honor of emceeing the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s annual State Conference, held in a hotel banquet hall just north of 270. Unlike previous years, it wasn’t quite a “convention” anymore, because the Libertarians are no longer a recognized minor political party in the state. This is due to the restrictive ballot access laws created by SB 193 that were passed by former Governor John Kasich and his Republican cronies in 2013. Of course, I’m not bitter about that at all and I won’t bring it up again! But it’s important to understand that the ballot access struggles the Libertarians (and Ohio Green Party) were faced with eight years ago were indicative, especially considering the most recent Ohio Redistricting Commission process, where the Republicans disregarded fairness once more.

Some folks may need some more backstory on what exactly SB 193 did and why. Prior to that bill’s passage in 2013, ballot access laws in Ohio were relatively lax, mainly requiring minor party candidates to meet the same criteria that major party candidates had to meet. So if a Republican or Democrat needed 25 signatures to get on the ballot for a partisan race, Libertarians and Greens just had to meet that threshold as well. Ballot access was equal and there weren’t restrictive rules for different political parties. Heck, back in 1998 former Governor Bob Taft had to face a few other candidates in a debate, including a Natural Law candidate! Wild times. Whenever Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell tried to further restrict ballot access for minor parties, he was beaten by the Libertarians in court every time.

When I ran for Congress with the Libertarians in 2010, we ran a full slate of statewide candidates and received a substantial amount of votes in statehouse races. However, this didn’t stop Kasich and the Republican candidates from sweeping those statewide races and retaking control of the redistricting process, leading to the very gerrymandered maps The Buckeye State had until this month. But the GOP also became increasingly worried about the growing Libertarian threat, especially if they ran to the right of Kasich in 2014, forcing them into a potential two-front political fight. So they relied on then-state senator Bill Seitz to get SB 193 passed through the legislature and Kasich signed it that day. Of course, I’m not bitter about that at all and I won’t bring it up again!

There was even more skullduggery that later went to court –– including Matt Borges’ scheme to kick Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl off the ballot in 2014 for a “signature technicality” that had never been enforced before –– but if the name Bill Seitz sounds familiar, it should. He’s now a state representative, because while Ohio has term limits for state legislators, many “career politicians'' just jump back and forth between the House and Senate. A few months ago, Seitz screamed at House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes in a committee hearing over yet another anti-voter bill he’s attempting to ram through the house. Yes, whenever Republicans need to get a bill through the statehouse that limits Ohioans’ access to the ballot or ballot box, Bill Seitz seems to be their man.

Now Leader Sykes is serving on the Ohio Redistricting Commission with a few more names from that formative “Kasich redistricting era” that should sound familiar. Now-Governor Mike DeWine was Ohio’s Attorney General in 2011 and now-Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted was our Secretary of State. Ohio’s current Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Auditor Keith Faber and Senate President Matt Huffman were rising stars in the Ohio state legislature, who all benefited from the maps created by that 2011 process. Sykes and her father state senator Vernon Sykes (per the changes to Ohio’s Constitution) are the only non-Republicans on the Redistricting Commission. They both recently voted ‘no’ on the new maps, meaning that without bipartisan approval, the maps will only go into effect for four years instead of ten.

Yes, no matter how many hundreds of Ohioans showed up to speak –– or if a majority of them voted for fair maps to be codified into Ohio’s constitution –– Republicans just keep protecting their own unbridled control. The new maps that were passed by the Ohio Redistricting Commission are even more gerrymandered than before and will certainly be challenged in court. As Democrats learned in 2011 –– and as Libertarians did in 2014 –– the Ohio Republican Party treats voters as stepping stones along their path to power and in the end, Ohioans get left behind. When the GOP wins by diluting our votes, everyone loses and with this latest cycle of redistricting, they’re up to their old tricks once more. Of course, I’m not bitter about that at all and I won’t bring it up again!