The Libertarian Party of Ohio has won its lawsuit against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Ohio requires that minor political parties (1) file a petition with the Secretary of State 120 days in advance of the general election and (2) nominate their candidates by primary election. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the requirements are unconstitutional together. Congratulations to the Libertarian Party of Ohio on their victory.
Moving the filing deadline closer to the date of the primary or allowing parties to choose their candidates in another manner may impose some additional costs on the state, but this is the price imposed by the First Amendment. Ohio is well within its authority to mandate primary elections, to limit all parties to one primary date, or to require filing a petition in advance of the primary for administrative purposes. Viewed individually, each of these requirements may only impose a reasonable burden on constitutional rights. In practice, however, the combination of these laws imposes a severe burden on the associational rights of the LPO, its members, and its potential voter-supporters. As the State has not shown that these laws are narrowly tailored to protect a compelling state interest, we find that the Ohio system for minor party qualification violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.