October 10, 2013

Ohio Senate session regarding Senate Bill 193

The Ohio Senate voted 22-11 this week to pass legislation that would set new rules for minor political parties in Ohio.

The legislation, Senate Bill 193, would relax vote thresholds for minor parties to be recognized by the state, and it would push back the deadline for parties to submit paperwork for a general election.

Senator Bill Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican sponsoring the bill, has said the legislation is needed as state rules governing minor parties have been in limbo since a federal court held in 2006 that they were overly restrictive.

Since then, the state has continued to recognize four minor parties: the Libertarians, the Green Party, the Constitution Party, and the Socialist Party.

Seitz said on the Senate floor that new rules are needed to ensure recognized political parties have some proof of support. He said the current situation is like the "wild, wild West.

"Obviously, if you are in one of those minor parties, you probably would like that current lawless state of affairs to continue, because you get to stay on the ballot without demonstrating any modicum of public support," Seitz said. "I don't think that's appropriate public policy, and that's why we drafted Senate Bill 193."

The American Civil Liberties Union is raising concerns along with third parties in Ohio, telling lawmakers that the proposals' petition requirements are onerous and the changes come too close to Ohio's 2014 statewide elections.

Libertarian and Green party officials renewed complaints that the reforms would make it extremely difficult for them to participate in next year’s elections, and that the leglislation effectively "bans" their party from the 2014 election.

While Republicans say the changes would make it easier for third parties to get on ballots and run candidates for office, Libertarian Party leaders said if the bill is passed, their party would no longer be recognized by the state.

The ballot access legislation comes as Ohio Republicans face growing competition from tea party supporters who say they may support a third-party challenger to Gov. John Kasich next year.

Former Republican state representative from northwest Ohio, Charlie Earl, launched his 2014 bid for governor as a Libertarian last month.

Earl's candidacy follows a tea party effort this spring to defeat Kasich's pick to lead the Ohio Republican Party. Challenger Tom Zawistowski lost but warned the party it had grown out of touch with its base and might be vulnerable to a third party.

Charlie Earl delivers a campaign website message regarding SB 193.

Aaron Keith Harris, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Ohio's Central Committee said the bill should be known as the "John Kasich Re-election Protection Act."

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