By ANN SANNER, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters won’t see candidates labeled as Libertarians on their ballots this fall after the state organization declined to submit the thousands of signatures needed to form a minor political party in the key swing state.
Ohio law requires groups seeking minor-party status to file a petition signed by a certain number of registered voters, roughly 30,600 signatures this year.
“We didn’t have the resources, the time or the money to do this this year,” said Aaron Keith Harris, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party of Ohio.
Harris said the group is working to get Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson on Ohio’s ballot as an independent. The organization would need to collect at least 5,000 signatures from registered Ohio voters by Aug. 10.
Harris said he wasn’t aware of other Libertarians who were trying to get on the November ballot as independent candidates.
Tuesday was the deadline for groups seeking minor-party status to submit their paperwork to Ohio’s elections chief, and the office said Wednesday that no new groups did.
The Green Party already met the state’s criteria in the 2014 election.
The political party rules were passed by the Republican-led state legislature in 2013, as the GOP faced growing competition from the tea party.
Ohio Libertarians have fought the changes in state and federal court for years. They maintain the law effectively eliminated all minor-party candidates from 2014 primary ballots and unfairly disadvantaged third parties going forward.
Harris said the group will aim to form a minor political party ahead of the 2018 elections, but he acknowledges the signatures required will be higher then. The state law ties the number of petition signatures to the total votes cast for governor or president, whichever is the most recent election.
“It’s not a comfortable position to be in,” Harris said. “Basically, we have to cross that bridge when we get there.”