On September 6, the 6th circuit declared the Ohio new party procedures unconstitutional. The vote was 2-1. The case is Libertarian Party of Ohio v Blackwell, 04-4215.
Ohio requires new parties to nominate by primary. Since the primary in presidential years is in March, the new party petition is in November of the year before the election. The majority said the combination of the relatively high number of signatures (1% of the last gubernatorial vote was 32,290 signatures in 2004) plus the extremely early deadline, taken together, is unconstitutional. No minor parties appeared on the ballot in Ohio in 2002, 2004, or 2006 (instead, minor party nominees use the easier independent candidate procedure, but that procedure doesn’t permit party labels).
The other part of the case involved whether the state violated due process when it invalidated the party’s 2003 petition because the wording on the form had changed after the petition drive had begun. The state did not tell the Ohio Libertarian Party that the petition forms were outdated. The state rejected the petition because it said “The penalty for election falsification is imprisonment for six months”, and it should have said, “Whoever commits election falsification is guilty of a felony of the 5th degree”. The irony of this case is that if the state had not treated the Libertarian Party so badly, this lawsuit would not have existed. As to that part of the case, only one judge felt the state’s behavior violated due process. The judge who wrote the majority decision felt that issue was moot. The third judge, who wanted to uphold the law, also said this issue was moot.
The Ohio Libertarian Party paid the legal costs for the part of the case that was in U.S. District Court. COFOE (the Coalition for Free & Open Elections) paid for the appeal of the case. If you are a member of COFOE, your contributions helped make this outcome possible, so thank you!