By Bob Fitrakis
Nov. 7, 2011
The Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Constitution and Americans Elect Parties are all designated as official parties on the ballot for the 2012 presidential election in Ohio. On October 18, 2011 the Federal District Court in Columbus ordered Secretary of State John Husted to recognize the Libertarian Party, As a result of that order, Husted issued Directive 2011-38 on November 1, 2011 which placed the four other minor parties on the Ohio ballot.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit found Ohio’s minor party election laws unconstitutional in September 2006. In the case Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Blackwell, the court held that both Ohio’s laws involving minor party formation as well as ballot access were unconstitutionally restrictive.
In 2008, in the Green Party of Ohio v. Brunner, then Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner entered into a consent decree with the Green Party that allowed both the Green and the Constitution Party on the ballot. The federal judge set as a standard that the minor parties had to show a “modicum” of support in Ohio to stay on the ballot. The judge set the standard at 1% of the statewide vote.
Early in 2011, the Republican-dominated legislature passed House Bill 194 essentially tossing the minor parties off the ballot and adopting similar standards for minor party ballot access that had already been determined unconstitutional.
The main thrust of HB 194 however, was to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters that tended to vote Democratic. A vast coalition led by the Democratic Party with the assistance of the minor parties filed signatures to repeal the law at the end of September.
The filing of the repeal petitions for HB 194 put the controversial law on hold until voters go to the polls in November 2012.
The Green Party of Ohio threatened to file a contempt motion against the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and force them to show cause why the 2008 agreement was not being honored. Minor parties were also planning to file suits similar to the Libertarian Party to be placed on the ballot.
Consequently, the Secretary of State’s new directive requires only that minor parties need only “…one-half the minimum number of signatures required for candidates of major political parties.”
The only minor party not previously deemed as an officially recognized minor party on the ballot in Ohio is the “virtual third-party” Americans Elect Party. The Party is registered as a nonprofit social welfare organization and it is attempting to secure ballot status in all 50 states. It gathered nearly 2 million signatures from supporters of the idea. As a nonprofit social welfare organization, it is allowed by law to keep its donors secret, according to McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington bureau.
Americans Elect is associated with Peter Ackerman, the investment banker who was the founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
The Green Party is planning to run candidates for U.S. Senate, President, and various Congressional seats in 2012.
Bob Fitrakis is general counsel for the Ohio Green Party and filed the suit against Jennifer Brunner in 2008 that placed the Green Party on the ballot.