"The Libertarian Party is on the ballot in Russia, Afganistan, and Iraq, but not in Ohio," notes LPO Executive Director Robert Butler. "We had a veteran and a hero from the current war in Iraq who wanted to run as a Libertarian last year, but I had to explain to him why that wasn't possible."

The Libertarian Party of Ohio is asking the Ohio House of Representatives to modernize the state's ballot access laws.

Robert Butler, 31, Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Ohio will testify on Wednesday March 2nd before the Ohio House Election and Ethics Committee.

"Our state's current ballot access laws were created during the Red Scare of the early 20th century," adds State Chair Jason Hallmark, "They do not reflect the ideals of open democracy, the foundation of our great country."

"We are only asking that Ohio modernize its laws, just as all of our neighboring states have recently done," explains Butler, "Ohio has been ranked 49th by OSU Political Science Professor Paul Allen Beck for its restrictive regulation of political parties. We want that to change."

The Libertarian Party is asking for five specific changes to Ohio's election laws: allow independents to work in Ohio's polling places, reduce and standardize the number of petition signatures, extend the period of recognition for minor parties from two to four years, lower the needed 5% percent in the Presidential and Gubnatorial races to 2% of any statewide race, and allow minor parties to nominate candidates by convention. These proposed changes are taken from similar laws in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

"We estimate that Ohio's current laws would require us to spend approximately $1 million every four years just to get our name on the ballots," notes Butler, "We know we can achieve a greater sense of democracy in Ohio. Once the voters understand the unfairness of the legal obstacles, they will demand change. That's why we will be touring the state and campaigning for ballot access."

Testimony of Robert D. Butler II
Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Ohio
Before the Ohio Elections and Ethics Committee
March 2, 2005 in Columbus, Ohio

I. Introduction

Good Morning. My name is Robert Butler and I am Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Ohio. It is my pleasure to be here this morning and offer the views of our organization on House Bill 3, proposed changes to Ohio’s election law. Let me first thank Committee Chairman Hughes and the Committee members for their efforts in improving Ohio’s current election laws.

Section 3515.03 through 3515.07 of House Bill 3 deal specifically with the issue of election recounts, and that is why I have come before you this morning. The Libertarian Party of Ohio agrees that candidates, their committees, or any interest so involved should pay the complete cost of any unsuccessful recount as stipulated in this bill. The Libertarian Party of Ohio is against the use of recounts solely as a means of publicity or distraction.

The apparent intention of House Bill 3 is to prevent the frivolous use of Ohio’s recount process and avoid burdening the taxpayers with added election costs. While this bill increases the cost of recounts, it fails to address the underlying problems that have caused recent recounts to occur in the first place. To these ends, the Libertarian Party would make suggestions to amend this bill to avoid future recounts and improve voter confidence in the electoral process.

II. Ohio’s Out-Dated Election Laws

The Libertarian Party is on the ballot in Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and 48 American states, but not in Ohio.

From Australia to Zimbabwe and most countries in between, there are Libertarians interacting with government to make changes toward a free society. In countries such as New Zealand and Costa Rica, Libertarians form a major part of their governments.

According to OSU Political Science Professor Paul Allen Beck, Ohio is ranked 49th in state regulation of political parties. Only Louisiana has more restrictions and regulations for political parties. In the first half of the 20th century, communist scares prompted Ohio lawmakers to enact a series of restrictive laws on the operation of political parties. Ohio’s current election and ballot access laws essentially have created a monopoly for the two major parties at the expense of political minorities. These laws are still in effect in Ohio even though all of our neighboring states: Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania have substantially modernized their election laws in the past decade.

The Libertarian Party knows that this committee stands for democracy. Stand up with us and amend this bill to reflect the real discrimination in Ohio’s election laws.

III. Why is this relevant to the recount process and House Bill 3?

House Bill 3 intends to increase the financial burden placed upon the concerned citizens of Ohio who request recounts. Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to address the underlying causes of recent recounts. The Libertarian Party of Ohio believes the recent Presidential recount in 2004 could have been avoided if Ohio’s election laws were modernized and allowed open participation by all legitimate political parties, organizations, and independent citizens.

I accepted my current position as Executive Director for the Libertarian Party of Ohio with a great deal of concern and trepidation. Ohio has a reputation nationally for its restrictions on ballot access and the party was fighting a lawsuit with Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to be recognized as a political party. Imagine sitting in an office and working full-time for a political party that legally doesn’t exist. Imagine being a voter and you are forbidden from running for office under your party banner. This happened to an Ohio veteran and hero from our current war in Iraq. He wanted to run as a Libertarian in 2004. I had to explain to him that he wasn’t permitted to do so.

In Ohio, Libertarians CAN NOT:

1. Run for office using their party label
2. Appoint inspectors, poll watchers, or challengers
3. Serve as election workers
4. Officially choose their candidates by primary or convention

In 2004, we were forced to list our Presidential candidate on the ballot as “other party”. This was a true disservice to the Ohio electorate, who deserves to know the political affiliation of a candidate simply as a point of information. After the election, our candidate, Michael Badnarik, began to hear rumors and anecdotes of voter fraud in Ohio. I personally participated in various public forums, listened to Ohio voters who had problems on Election Day, and took sworn testimony and affidavits. Unfortunately, as a leader of the Libertarian Party I had no one within my party to question. Only Republicans and Democrats are allowed to serve as inspectors, poll watchers, challengers, or even election workers. No independent voters or Libertarians are permitted to volunteer as election workers in most counties. I reported the partial and incomplete information I had to my Executive Committee.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio decided not to support the Presidential recount of 2004. There were various reasons. Perhaps the most common were the appearance of favoring Democrats over Republicans (we never endorse other parties), the unfair cost to the taxpayers, and the lack of faith that a recount would shed any useful light on what occurred on Election Day. Due to the difficulties our party experienced with Secretary Blackwell and our complete lack of any representation inside the polling places, our Presidential candidate Michael Badnarik decided that he would support the Ohio recount of 2004. He was the primary complainant and made the decision on his own. Neither the LPO nor the national party financially supported the recount, but we certainly understood why Mr. Badnarik and many of Ohio’s citizens were confused, upset, and concerned over the November 2004 election. When the ballots were recounted, this was the first chance Libertarians had to witness the counting process. For us, it was our first count, and not a recount at all.

Libertarians join our party because they do not feel adequately represented by the two major parties. Most, if not all of our members, would drop out of the political process entirely if the Libertarian Party did not exist. It is completely understandable that they would be suspicious of Ohio’s election activities when they are expressly forbidden from participation. John F. Kennedy once said, “When you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable.” We respectfully urge the Ohio House to reconsider the burdens placed on political minorities so that we can avoid repeating the problems of 2004.

With the current ballot access laws, the Libertarian Party of Ohio estimates that we would need to spend approximately $500,000 to both earn and maintain ballot access. And since minor party access is only valid for two years, we would need to spend a million dollars every four years just to stay on the ballot. This would obviously put a tremendous strain upon even the major political parties, but forcing minor parties to spend so much money before they can even enter the campaign places an impossible burden upon them. This is the equivalent of asking a man to run a marathon before his real race even starts.

IV. Proposed Changes to Ohio House Bill 3

The Libertarian Party of Ohio asks Ohio’s Legislature to modernize Ohio’s election laws, specifically ballot access for minor political parties. These changes will reduce the need for recounts. There are five specific changes:

1. Allow minor party and independent candidates the right to appoint election observers and challengers. Allow members of minor parties or independents to work at polling places.

2. Reduce and standardize the signature requirements for minor political parties and independent political candidates. To imply that major party membership is somehow “better” and reduces the need for signatures is unsubstantiated. The current percentage system raises and lowers the requirement of signatures each cycle. Our neighboring states require 5-10,000 signatures for minor parties, and some require no signatures at all.

3. Extend the period of minor party recognition from two years to four years. Four years is a reasonable amount of time, whereas a two-year cycle results in a permanent state of crisis.

4. Currently, minor parties must receive 5% of the vote in either the President’s or Governor’s race to maintain their status without petitioning. This is a nearly impossible hurdle. Other states require 1 or 2% of the vote in any state-wide race, or a lower profile race such as Secretary of State.

5. Currently, minor parties who do have ballot access must nominate their candidates by primary. We feel this creates an unfair burden on both the taxpayer and the County Boards of Elections. When the Libertarian Party has had ballot access in Ohio, our members experienced difficulties in receiving Libertarian Party ballots. We wish to nominate our candidates by convention so that we can pay all of the costs and ensure that each Libertarian is able to cast a proper ballot.

V. Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to thank the Ohio Elections and Ethics Committee and Chairman Hughes for the opportunity to speak today. Please consider the Libertarian and Independent’s point of view in the actions you decide to take regarding House Bill 3. I am available for any questions you may have now and in the future feel free to contact me at the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s headquarters (614) 547-0290, hq@lpo.org