Ohio State Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has introduced SB 193, to revise Ohio’s ballot access laws for minor parties. Senator Seitz tells the press that his bill liberalizes the law, but it doesn’t. It keeps the number of signatures now required (1% of the last vote cast), but it adds a distribution requirement. Party petitions would need at least 500 valid signatures from each of half of the U.S. House districts.
Current law provides that the petition to qualify a new party need not list the party’s nominees, but the bill would say that the petition must list them, even the presidential and vice-presidential nominees. Since the party petition would be due at the end of June, and because it takes time to complete a petition of 55,809 valid signatures, this means the party would be required to have chosen its presidential nominee before the petition starts. The 2014 petition would be 55,089, but at this time no one can know what the 2016 requirement would be because no one knows how many votes will be cast in 2014.
Current law says the party petition is due three months before the primary date. The primary is in March in presidential years and May in other years. That deadline was held unconstitutional in 2006. Because the legislature has never changed it, the state has allowed all political parties that can show a modicum of support to appear on the ballot with no petition, ever since 2008. The bill changes the petition deadline to 125 days before the general election. This is the only part of the bill that improves the law, but since the state’s old deadline has been invalidated, this part of the bill isn’t really a gain.
The bill says that even after a newly-qualifying party submits its petition, it isn’t finished petitioning. The bill also requires separate candidate petitions for each of the candidates named on the petition. Statewide candidates would need 500 signatures; district candidates would need 25 signatures. These separate candidate petitions are utterly illogical, since the candidates have already shown they have voter support by the success of the party petition.
The bill lowers the vote test from 5% of the vote for the top of the ticket, to 3% for the top of the ticket. It would still be necessary for a party to meet the vote test every two years. By comparison, almost half the states only apply a vote test every four years. Also a slight majority of states let the vote for any statewide race count, but under this bill, Ohio would continue its policy in which only the vote for President and Governor count.
Parties that have been recognized without any petition starting in 2008 in Ohio are the Americans Elect, Constitution, Libertarian, Green, and Socialist Parties. If SB 193 is enacted this year, those parties would be removed from the 2014 ballot, although Americans Elect isn’t recognized in any event because it asked to be removed.