COLUMBUS—An Ohio law known as the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” will not be able to ban the Libertarian Party and other so-called “minor” parties from the 2014 ballot, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The preliminary injunction in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Husted blocks the state of Ohio “from retroactively applying SB 193 to Ohio’s 2014 primary and general elections.”
Political analysts from Ohio and across the nation have speculated that SB 193 was designed to protect Kasich’s 2014 re-election chances against a challenge from Libertarian Charlie Earl, a former state legislator who is very popular with liberty-oriented and Tea Party groups in Ohio angered by Kasich’s support for Obamacare, his crony capitalism, and lack of fiscal responsibility.
The ruling from Judge Michael H. Watson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio means that challenger parties in Ohio will be allowed to continue to participate in the 2014 election cycle without being forced to comply with the several onerous “party formation” requirements mandated by SB 193.
“Once again, the courts stand with us and with the First Amendment rights of all Ohioans to political freedom and suffrage in Ohio,” said Kevin Knedler, chair of the LPO executive committee. “The foundation of a democratic society is the right to vote and to have real choices on the ballot. A lot of voters—especially young voters—refuse to be put in either the Republican or Democrat boxes, and the Libertarian Party offers a true alternative for voters who want individual freedom in every area of life.”
Tuesday’s victory is the fourth in federal court for the LPO since 2006, when LPO v. Blackwell struck down a ballot law concerning "minor" political parties. The LPO won two more federal court fights over ballot access before SB 193 was passed, while consistently, but unsuccessfully, lobbying the state legislature for a fair election law.
State attorneys may appeal Tuesday’s ruling, Knedler said, but “they would have almost no chance of winning” less than a month before the February 5 deadline by which petitions are due for candidates running in the May 5 primary.
Kasich signed SB 193 in November after it was rushed through both houses of the Ohio legislature with all but a handful of GOP legislators voting for it. In the several hearings on the bill in both houses, no one testified in favor of SB 193, save the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Bill Seitz.
“Kasich and the Republican party thought they were silencing the growing liberty movement in Ohio, but now they have one hell of a fight on their hands,” said Aaron Keith Harris, LPO central committee chairman and candidate for secretary of state. “Voters no longer trust them when they pretend to oppose Democrats on issues like health care freedom and the runaway growth of government power over their everyday lives.”
One Libertarian statewide candidate—attorney general hopeful Steven Linnabary—has already submitted his petition, as have several Libertarian state legislature and state central committee candidates.
Libertarian governor candidate Charlie Earl, along with a full slate of statewide candidates and up to 50 other Libertarian candidates across the state will file by February 5, Knedler said.
Aaron Keith Harris