There’s probably only one political entity in our dear state that despises the Ohio Republican Party more than the Ohio Democratic Party, and that would be the Libertarian Party of Ohio. Yes, thanks to a variety of new regulations and obstacles created by Ohio’s GOP — as covered here on Plunderbund and elsewhere — the Libertarian Party of Ohio is technically not even a recognized political party anymore. This assault on the LPO began in 2013 when the Ohio State Senate fast tracked S.B. 193, dubbed the “John Kasich Re-Election Protection Act”, a law that completely restructured Ohio’s rules regarding the statuses of minor political parties. If a minor party didn’t meet the required percentage margins in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential race (3 percent for each) they would have to petition thousands of Ohioans (one percent of the total electorate in the most recent presidential or statewide election) to regain their minor party status. AKA — tens of thousands of signatures.

While S.B. 193 was originally found unconstitutional by the courts because of its proximity to the 2014 election, it has since gone into effect. While the Ohio Green Party was able to maintain their minor party status by receiving over 2 percent of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial race (Democrat Ed FitzGerald’s implosion helped with that) the Libertarians weren’t able to meet the required margin because their candidate, former state representative and Tea Party favorite Charlie Earl, got kicked off the ballot thanks to other Ohio GOP shenanigans. Although there’s not exactly enough proof to confirm it, it’s pretty clear that Republican strategist/Kasich-insider Terry Casey helped find a “guileless dupe” within the Libertarian voting block to challenge Earl’s signatures (on the grounds that the petition’s paid circulators failed to disclose their employer, a technicality that was never previously used to challenge signatures) and the Ohio Republican Party paid the legal bills for the challenge. So the Libertarians ended up getting removed from the one statewide race in which they needed to get more than 2 percent.

Because of these complications, a big fuss was made about the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee Gary Johnson getting on the ballot in Ohio. While Johnson will be on the ballot in all fifty states, Ohio is the one of the few states where he won’t be on the ballot as a Libertarian. Instead, the LPO first had to circulate petitions with placeholder names as “Unaffiliated” candidates, then switched out those names with Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. And because Johnson is officially on the ballot as an “Unaffiliated” candidate, even if he gets over 3 percent in Ohio, it won’t help the LPO’s ballot access troubles unless one of their two court cases against S.B. 193 — one in Ohio’s courts and one heading to the U.S. Court of Appeals — gets settled before Election Day, and that probably ain’t happenin’. So regardless of the percentage Johnson gets in Ohio — and he’s polling at anywhere between 8 and 13 percent — the Libertarians will still have to gather 1 percent of the 2016 electorate’s signatures to become a political party again in 2017 to get into the 2018 gubernatorial race. This, of course, is all assuming that the Republicans don’t pull some more shady back room tricks once more.

This is why as determined as the members of the Libertarian Party of Ohio are, they are rightfully pissed at Ohio’s Republicans, probably more so than any Democrat in the state. With two legal cases still in the courts against S.B. 193, one petitioning effort to get their candidate on the ballot this year (with no further ballot access advantages from it) and an even bigger petitioning effort needed to become a recognized political party again next year, it’s fair to say that there’s no political group in our state that’s been screwed harder by Ohio’s GOP than the Libertarian Party of Ohio. Whatever you think of libertarian ideals, if you see a Libertarian gathering signatures around Ohio in the next few years, do them a favor and sign their petition so they have a right to exist — and feel free to talk a little smack about Ohio’s GOP, too. Libertarians will likely be quick to agree.

  • Richard Winger

    This is a very good story. However there are 3 states that won’t print “Libertarian” next to Gary Johnson’s name. The other two are Alabama and Tennessee.

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