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Ohio cracks down on grassroots organizing, causing an unlikely coalition

Grassroots organizing is under attack in Ohio. The state’s Republican majority recently enacted measures under Ohio Senate Bill 193 that make it virtually impossible for third parties to function. The measure takes full effect at the end of January 2014.

In 2014, a new barrier for new party-formation petitions will be created; a requirement to have at least .5 percent of the total vote from the state’s last gubernatorial election, which amounts to about 27,000 votes. By the end of the year, all new party-formation petitions must have at least 1 percent of the electorate, and signatures must include at least 500 registered voters from eight of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts. All office holders and volunteers for a minor political party (e.g. petitioners, county officials and campaign organizers) must also have voted in that same party’s primary within the last two years; this deals a strong blow to organizations like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, which have active cross-membership with other political parties. Due to deadline changes, minor parties may not even have a 2014 primary. Minor parties must create a body of three to five members to nominate candidates, and the secretary of state must approve of them. Each of the parties must receive at least 3 percent of the statewide vote in order to stay on the ballot. The law ensures that many thousands of people will become less able to express themselves politically in Ohio.

Third parties affected by the new rules are claiming that they’re being unfairly targeted because Ohio is often highly contested in national elections. The biggest small party in the state is the Libertarian Party, which regularly steals only a tiny portion of Republican votes — but that tiny portion can make a difference. One percent can sway an election in a battleground state.

Each of the main minor parties has released a statement.

The Green Party:

The Ohio Green Party has been a legally recognized political party since 2008, has shown increasing voter support in both elections and party registrations, has two sitting elected Green officials in Ohio, and is currently running five candidates for local offices across the state. This unprecedented outlawing of fully functional and legally compliant political parties shows the legislature’s increasing distaste for democracy and democratic institutions.

The Libertarian Party:

The bottom line is that the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act would disenfranchise every Ohio voter by taking away their right to vote for a candidate for governor other than a) John Kasich, a governor who has miserably failed the state of Ohio and betrayed millions of fiscal conservatives who expected him to follow Ohio law and oppose Obamacare, or b) the nominee of the other big-government party who is promising to double down on most of Kasich’s failing policies.

The Constitution Party:

Senate Bill 193 for 2013, proposed in mid-September by Cincinnati Republican State Senator Bill Seitz, is one piece of scary legislation making any other Halloween monster seem tame by comparison. This is a bill designed to permanently eliminate all political parties except Republican and Democrat from existence beginning in 2014.

Both the Green Party and the Constitution Party have joined the Libertarian Party in bringing the bill into court. The Green Party was officially added to the case on December 4, after the ACLU’s motion to intervene on the behalf of the organization was granted by Federal District Court Judge Michael Watson. This alliance between libertarians, leftists and socially conservative constitutionalists could prove formidable in the fight for grassroots movements to have a voice in the electoral system.