Legislative debate about proposed requirements for minor political parties continues after changes made by the Ohio House Wednesday caused confusion.
Under the changes, minor parties must gather 10,000 registered voters' signatures to form their parties in 2014. Thereafter, they'd need a half-percent of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential election. That's roughly 28,000 signatures using last year's numbers. To remain qualified, parties must get 2 percent of total votes cast in the following gubernatorial or presidential election. The Senate rejected the adjustments, saying they seemed to inadvertently cut a requirement that a certain number of signatures come from eight congressional districts. The House, which approved the bill yesterday, had thought it was included. A House spokesperson says it was a bill-writing error. The confusion means the measure now heads to a conference committee. More from Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler.
The measure would require minor parties to gather signatures equal to 1 percent of the vote in the most recent election for governor or president, and that a minor party must get at least 2 percent of that total vote to qualify for future ballots. Republican Speaker Pro Tem Matt Huffman said because there’s no law on minor parties, the bill is needed.
“The purpose of the party labels is to inform the voter. And to the current scheme, there’s an opportunity really to misinform the voter. And that’s why rules of this kind are very important.”
But Democrats such as Kathleen Clyde of Kent are suspicious of the bill’s timing, since it would be in place for a gubernatorial election in which Tea Party activists have promised to consider candidates besides the incumbent Republican governor.
“I stand today to oppose the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act. These campaigns are already underway. Minor party candidates have filed.”
Republican Jim Buchy of Greenville in western Ohio said there was no reason to assume that politics is playing a role in this proposal.
“Why you want to make a political statement is fine. But the fact is, what we’re doing in the legislation is creating law that speaks to minority parties. That’s what we’re doing, so that everybody has, understands what it takes to be a minority party.”
But Democrat Mike Curtin of Columbus said voters might well be suspicious of anyone who supports this measure.
“The central question is, how self-interested do we want to be as the two major parties? And I would say that in the better part of our history, we were for more democracy and not less democracy.”
The Libertarian Party of Ohio has promised an immediate lawsuit over the bill, which libertarians say prevents them from campaigning till just 95 days before an election while allowing the major parties to campaign almost indefinitely.