EXCLUSIVE: Federal Lawsuit Filed After Ohio Kicks Libertarian Candidate For Governor Off Primary Ballot

A federal lawsuit has just been filed by the Libertarian Party of Ohio, challenging a new effort to deny Libertarians a vote for Governor.  This latest attempt, comes from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday as he decided to kick Libertarian Party candidate for Governor Charlie Earl off the primary ballot.  Attorney General candidate, Steven Linnabary, also a Libertarian was kicked off the ballot as well.

In an exclusive interview with Libertarian Candidate for Governor, Charlie Earl, Ben Swann asked about this latest stumbling block put up by the GOP leadership.

“They see us as a threat and a challenge [to Governor John Kasich], we are coming from a Constitutional perspective.  We are on his right” says Earl, who served for a number of years as a Republican State Rep in Ohio.

If you haven’t heard about the efforts by Ohio Republicans to stop at all costs the Libertarian party from having a candidate on the November 2014 ballot, then you have missed one of the most dramatic political stories of this year.

Already twice in the past few months the Ohio State Legislature, which is overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans has created two bills that would strip the Libertarian Party of the ballot access.  Both of those bills were signed into law by Governor John Kasich, both of those bills halted by a federal judge.

In this latest case, Secretary of State Husted, a Republican, said he had adopted a hearing officer’s recommendations in disqualifying Charlie Earl.  The decision came after two protests were made against the process by which Earl gained enough voter signatures to be on the primary ballot.

The Libertarian Party needed 500 registered voters to sign a petition in order to gain primary ballot access.  The party hired a professional firm to gather those signatures.  In all, just under 1,500 signatures were gathered, turned in and verified by various county clerks across the state as well as by the Secretary of State’s office.  Then came two challenges to those signatures.  The first claim alleged that the people who were hired to collect signatures on nominating petitions from registered voters did not disclose who had employed them, as required by law.  The second claim alleged that the firm collecting signatures were not Libertarians or independents, as required by Ohio law.  That second claim was disproven in a hearing.

On the first claim however,  one independent contractor who collected signatures did not disclose the name of the enitiy that hired him.  That contractor testified in Friday’s hearing that he has collected signatures for ballot initiatives in Ohio for 12 years and during that time has never once disclosed his employer and yet this is the first time any petition has ever been rejected.  The contractor went on to say that he does not disclose his employer because he is an independent contractor.

Saturday night a federal lawsuit was filed by the LP’s attorney Mark Brown. Brown is looking for a judge to rule on this issue and recognize the pattern of behavior by the Ohio Republican Party to stop any challenge that might harm Gov. John Kasich’s re-election chances.

Earl:  “What we are asking for is the right to be able to use our first amendment rights to be able to select our own candidates”

Swann:  “Are you asking for a ruling or an injunction?”

Earl: “A ruling.  We already have an injunction in that legislation that you talked about. This would be a ruling tied into that injunction, ok.  In other words he would rule that this is an extension of an attempt to keep us off the ballot.”

Swann:  “So you’re compiling all of these things together and saying this is not an isolated incident, rather there is a pattern of behavior over the past few months to try to keep the Libertarian Party off the ballot?”

Earl:  “Precisely.  And as a former Republican and as a citizen of Ohio, I was born and raised here, it’s not that, its just limiting choice for the people of Ohio. Whether its Libertarian or Green or anybody else for that matter I think they should have the choice of choosing someone.  Keep in mind, 50% of the voters in Ohio are unaffiliated.  They don’t belong to a party because they are fed up with what these two old parties are doing to them and they would like to have an option and an opportunity to go another direction.”

So why is the Republican Party so desperate to stop Libertarians from being on the ballot?  Governor Kasich has embraced a number of issues that have angered conservative and Tea Party voters across the state including a massive Medicaid expansion, lack of transparency in his public/private Jobs Ohio board and most recently, the Governor’s support of Common Core.

Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party is growing in Ohio.  In the 2010 election when Kasich defeated then Governor Ted Strickland, Kasich only won by a 2% margin, 49% to 47%.  At that time the Libertarians took about 2% of the vote.  This time around, the Libertarian Party could take anywhere from 5% to 10% of the vote and could not only cause Kasich to lose his place in the Governor’s mansion but would harm any possible hopes for a future Presidential run.

According to Earl, “I served with John 30 years ago, he was a Senator and I was a House member. He’s a decent fellow but he’s just become a part of government. He’s embracing government, he’s having an affair with government.  They are trying to protect him. They also see him as a possible Presidential contender.” says Earl.  “They are hoping people will fall by the wayside and John can sneak in there but they can’t do that if he gets only 40% or 45% or 51%, they need an overwhelming victory.”