The Ohio Senate on Tuesday passed a bill reforming minor party recognition in Ohio, despite objections from existing minor party officials who said the legislation would keep them off the ballot next year.
Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said his bill fixes problems in existing law that have been patched by directives from secretaries of state from both parties. Ohio’s system of registering new minor parties has been found unconstitutional and is not currently enforced.
Senate Bill 193 was introduced at a time when tea party supporters disappointed with Kasich say they plan to field a candidate or back someone else, possibly a Libertarian Party candidate. Minor party officials say the move is purely political and have called the bill the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.”
“They’re afraid again that democracy will break out in the state and voters will be like other democracies in the world and have more than two choices,” Bob Fitrakis, co-chair of the Green Party of Ohio, said Tuesday.
Fitrakis unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat against Kasich for Congress in 1992 and as the Green Party candidate for governor in 2006.
Fitrakis said minor parties that have been recognized in Ohio for years would have only months to collect “an impossible amount” of signatures to be re-recognized.
The bill passed the Senate 22-11, with Republican Sen. Kevin Bacon of Columbus voting against party lines, and now moves to the House. The bill has an emergency clause, so it would go into effect immediately and not be subject to referendum.
Current law specifies minor parties must get 5 percent of the vote for governor or president to continue to be recognized. Seitz’s bill lowers the threshold to 3 percent and parties would be recognized for four years.
None of Ohio’s four recognized minor parties — Libertarian, Green, Constitution and Socialist parties — would have met the threshold in 2010. Ken Matesz, Libertarian Party candidate for governor in 2010, garnered the third-highest number of votes — only 2.39 percent of the total cast in the race. Last year, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson got less than 1 percent of Ohio’s vote.
New political parties would have to collect signatures totalling at least 1 percent of the number of votes cast in the previous election for governor or president — more than 56,000 signatures for next year.
Minor party officials say the vote and signature requirements make an already difficult process harder and will disenfranchise voters who don’t want to vote Democrat or Republican.
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