Ohio Republican Senator Bill Seitz (District 8) is at it again. His Senate Bill 193 is out to purge Ohio minor parties from the ballot.

On Friday, September 20, former Ohio State Representative Charlie Earl announced that he is running for governor as a Libertarian candidate next year. By Tuesday, Seitz was holding hearings on his new bill that would make it difficult for Earl to stay on the ballot.

Earl ran as the Libertarian candidate for Ohio Secretary of State in 2010 and received nearly 5% of the vote. In his announcement, Earl claimed he had “Tea Party support.”

The bill requires minor parties to get 3% of the presidential vote in order for their party to stay officially on the Ohio ballot. Essentially, minor parties will be removed from the 2014 ballot on the grounds that they did not pass a vote test – that was not in existence – in 2012. Seitz’s bill appears to violate due process by requiring minor parties to undergo this process in 2014. The Ohio Green Party planned to run a gubernatorial candidate in 2014 as well.

Richard Winger, perhaps the nation’s leading expert on minor party politics, points out that in the last 90 years, only three third parties received at least 3% of the presidential vote nationwide: the Progressive Party in 1924, the American Independence Party in 1968, and the Reform Party in 1996.

All existing minor parties would be thrown off the ballot under Seitz’s bill including the Libertarian Party, whose last gubernatorial candidate who received at little more than 2% of the vote, and the

Green Party whose gubernatorial candidate got almost 2% of the vote. In Seitz’s new bill, a newly qualifying party must also submit both a petition to obtain party status and separate petitions for each of its nominees. If minor parties are to be on the ballot in 2013, the bill requires that they first obtain 55,809 valid signatures.

The Democrat and Republican Parties don’t need to submit any signatures to officially be on the ballot.

The state of Maryland once had a similar law and it was declared unconstitutional in 2003. There is no state in the nation that requires a party to qualify separately and additionally require the party nominees to submit signatures as well.

Historically, the term nominee meant someone who was nominated by a political party. It does not refer to someone who is seeking the party’s nomination.

Already Ohio law requires that anyone signing a petition to place a minor party on the ballot must “declare their intention of organizing a political party.” Other states simply allow signers to declare that they want the minor party recognized on the ballot.

Another problem with Seitz’s new bill is that it requires all minor parties to run a candidate for president or be thrown off the ballot in the next non-presidential election year. Historically there have been examples of state-based parties like the Minnesota Independence Party, the Farmer Labor Parties in the 1930s, the North Dakota Non-Partisan League in the 1920s, and the Negro Protection Part of the 1890s. None of these state-based parties organized to run presidential candidates.

The strangest part of Seitz’s new bill is that it forces newly qualifying minor parties to list all of their nominees on a petition in order to gather the more than 55,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot. This puts the minor parties in the awkward position of circulating nominee petitions before they know if their party is officially on the ballot.

The Democrat and Republican Parties hold their presidential nominating conventions in August and September of the presidential election year. Under Seitz’s bill, the minor parties would be coerced into holding a nominating convention much earlier in order to undertake the arduous task the signature due date of July 2, 2014. The need to list all nominees on the petition closes the minor parties out of the usual national primaries. The same rules should apply to all political parties.

In Ohio, the Green Party has an elected City Councilperson, Brian Cummins, in Cleveland Council Ward 14 as well as Struthers Board of Education member, Dennis Spisak. The Ohio Green Party is focusing on local races in 2013 with candidates in Toledo, Cleveland, Youngstown and Bowling Green, Ohio.


Bob Fitrakis is Co-Chair of the Ohio Green Party.