We need your help to get the Libertarian Party regain ballot access in Ohio. This article helps explain what ballot access is, why it is important to us, and why the Libertarian Party of Ohio does not currently have it.
What is "ballot access"?
“Ballot access” is the right to put a political party label under a candidate’s name on the ballot. Having ballot access also enables a party to hold a primary. Under Ohio law (ORC 3501.38, amended in 2013 by Senate Bill 193), a political party must get 3% of the vote for Governor or 3% of the vote for President to gain ballot access for four years. The party must again get 3% of the vote for President or Governor to renew its access for another four years. Supporters of SB 193 designed and timed this bill to prevent the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) from appearing on the ballot in 2014. To correct this injustice, the LPO filed several lawsuits.
- The federal district court in the first case, Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Husted, ordered the Secretary of State to keep the LPO on the ballot in 2014 (Court documents). This case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided to let stand a federal appeals court ruling against the LPO.
- A suit filed in the state court system in 2015 challenged the constitutionality of SB 193 on the basis of Article V, Section 7 of the Ohio Constitution.
- In the most recent case, State ex. rel. Fockler v. Husted, decided January 20, 2017, the Court ruled that Gary Johnson's 3.17% vote for President did not qualify the Libertarian Party to get on the ballot, despite the clear wording of Section 3517.01(A)(1)(a) of the Ohio Revised Code.
From the Ohio Revised Code:
3517.01 Political party definitions.
(A) (1) A political party within the meaning of Title XXXV of the Revised Code is any group of voters that meets either of the following requirements:
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this division, at the most recent regular state election, the group polled for its candidate for governor in the state or nominees for presidential electors at least three per cent of the entire vote cast for that office. A group that meets the requirements of this division remains a political party for a period of four years after meeting those requirements.
The dissenting justice, William O'Neill observed that the majority ruling involved "circular reasoning."
“Respectfully, I must dissent. Relators [LPO] have filed this action by virtue of the fact that their candidates captured more than 3 percent of the statewide vote for president and vice president in the 2016 general election. They seek recognition as the Libertarian Party to participate in Ohio’s 2017 primary election and beyond. Respondent, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, opposes relators’ request based on the fact that relators’ candidates did not run under the Libertarian Party banner in 2016. That is, at best, circular reasoning.”
- Most recently the Ohio Supreme Court denied the LPO filing for reconsideration. A final case is pending with the Ohio State Court of Appeals challenging that the 2013 law violates the Ohio Constitution which appears to mandate primaries but the smart money is in realizing the State won’t save us from hard work.
To get an idea of how hard the entrenched oligarchy works to “protect” the voter from choice, take a minute to image the huge waste of tax dollars that has been spent on decades of systematic abuse as recorded by Ballot Access News. What are the two major parties afraid of?
Why the Party needs to circulate petitions now
The short answer
The short answer: The law requires the Party to circulate petitions containing more than 55,000 valid signatures (with at least 500 each from eight of Ohio's 16 Congressional Districts), and file them by August 2018 to allow our candidates to show the Libertarian label on the ballot. Because petition gathering usually results in a large number of invalid signatures, the state Party will attempt to gather at least 110,000 signatures statewide. The Libertarian Party of Ohio office will be open throughout this year to receive and validate signatures so a Libertarian can run for Governor in 2018. Once petitions are turned in, each address is confirmed and the Congressional District must be added. Volunteers are validating the signatures in a process so laborious that -- to do the process correctly -- it would take a full-time employee over a year and a half to validate the petitions.
Alternatively, professional pollsters can be hired to circulate petitions (though the signatures still need to be validated), but those cost between $2.00 and $5.00 each. Without grass-roots support the cost to gain ballot access in Ohio is between $200,00 and $500,000! And if 3% of the vote isn’t sustained, it has to be done every four years!
The inverse correlation between free market success and the costs and barriers to starting a new business are strong. Likewise, the major political parties are systematically protecting themselves by hamstringing smaller organizations from doing anything more than try to gain Party recognition.
You can help us get back on the ballot! If you are a people person you can help circulate petitions; if you prefer a cup of coffee and a keyboard, come help validate them. Join the Voter Freedom Drive to download petition forms. Of course, Donations to the state Party can be used to support the volunteer efforts! For additional information, contact Tricia Sprankle, state political director and petition coordinator.
The long answer, including juicy details
In 2014, Charlie Earl, Libertarian candidate for Governor, submitted petitions containing 1,478 signatures, far more than the 500 signatures required by law. After Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office unofficially indicated that the petitions were acceptable, it received a protest that some of them did not include a properly completed statement naming the employer of a paid circulator (who in fact was an independent contractor). This statement is required by law, but was never enforced. Following that protest, petitions containing over half of Charlie Earl’s signatures were invalidated, disqualifying him from the ballot. Because the protest was filed at the last minute specified by law, Mr. Earl had no opportunity to respond to the protest or to take any corrective action. It therefore became impossible for the Libertarian Party to secure the 3% vote for governor required to stay on the ballot. This was one of the issues in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Husted, which the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously decided in favor of the Secretary of State (Source). A second suit filed at the same time, State ex. rel. Linnabary v. Husted, was filed by Attorney General candidate Steve Linnabary, whose petition was rejected on the same grounds.
The Ohio Republican Party’s involvement
Ohio law requires that a protester must be a member of the same political party as the candidate. The protester in this case was Gregory Felsoci, a carpenter and registered Libertarian living near Akron. The judge in an opinion referred to Mr. Felsoci as a “guileless dupe,” whose testimony “lacks even a basic understanding of the nature of the protest he agreed to sign.”
Testimony revealed that an operative in the Kasich for Governor campaign, Terry Casey, with the help of a local Republican, found Mr. Felsoci and persuaded him to sign the protest. Despite having very limited means, Mr. Felsoci was soon represented by the high-power Columbus law firm of Zeiger, Tigges & Little. Mr. Casey testified in September that he took responsibility for paying Mr. Felsoci’s legal bills, and would look for donors to pay them.
The “donor” turned out to be the Ohio Republican Party (ORP). In a filing to the Ohio Elections Commission at its hearing May 8, 2015, the ORP admitted to spending $300,000 to pay Zeiger, Tigges & Little the costs of representing Mr. Felsoci (news story). (This figure is now estimated to be greater than $575,000).
The extraordinary timing of the protest was made possible by e-mails and texts made between Mr. Casey and two employees of the Ohio Secretary of State, Matt Damschroder (Director of Elections) and Jack Christopher (General Counsel), which began two weeks before the protest was filed.
These facts make it clear that the Ohio Republican Party and Gov. Kasich’s campaign conspired to keep Charlie Earl off the ballot, fearing that the Libertarian vote in a close race would have resulted in a Democratic victory for governor.
There is no evidence to suggest that Gov. Kasich had any personal knowledge of Mr. Casey’s or the ORP’s activity. This is to be expected. Campaign operatives take great care to hide such operations from their candidates, to give them “plausible deniability.” However, it would be fair to question the Governor about the character of the people he retained to work for his election.