Ohio Libertarians Beat Blackwell in Court

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.

Read the full decision here (PDF). (Hat tip: Jonathan Adler)

Nicholas Sarwark

Mr. Sarwark lives in Colorado and keeps poor people out of cages for a living. His views are his own, not his employer's, his wife's, or his dog's. They are also awesome and always right.

  1. The irony of this decision is that if Ken Blackwell hadn’t been so hostile to us in 2003, the lawsuit would never have happened. We turned in our party petition by the deadline, but he wouldn’t even check the signatures, since he had changed the state form after we had started collecting, and didn’t tell us, so he said our petition form was obsolete and the signatures worthless. A kindlier person would have accepted our petition. Now Ohio will be forced to improve its ballot access procedure.

  2. Proof that sometimes the bad actions of bureaucrats can lead to good results. See also the Kelo v. New London decision, where the Institute for Justice lost, but it led to a energized movement against eminent domain abuse.

  3. Andy: there are more libertarians running as Republicans and Democrats (as in at least a dozen or two) than people who tried to run _as_ Libertarians, here in NH. Some did qualify as LPers, FYI.

    And the ballot access lawsuit currently in front of the NH Supreme Court is likely to be decided in favor of reducing the requirements, based on the reaction of the judges during oral arguments.


  4. hey seth shoot me a email when you get a chance. I need to send you a check and I need your address yet again.