Libertarians Lose Battle Over Party Status in Ohio

(CN) – Ohio can refuse to recognize Libertarians as a political party because their candidates appeared on the 2016 election ballot as independents, the state’s highest court ruled.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and vice presidential candidate William Weld received 3.17 percent of the vote in Ohio ballot in November’s general election.

Because the duo garnered more than 3 percent of the vote, the committee that nominated them asked Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to formally recognize the Libertarian Party.

This recognition would allow the party to hold primary elections and have candidates appear on the ballot as Libertarians.

Husted refused to recognize the party because Johnson and Weld appeared on the ballot as independent candidates, arguing their votes could not create a political party in Ohio.

John Fockler and other members of the Libertarian nominating committee took Husted to the Ohio Supreme Court, which sided with Husted in an unsigned Jan. 20 opinion.

The justices noted that the Libertarians had lost their status as a party in Ohio in 2014 because they failed to nominate a candidate for governor.

“As Husted notes, the 3 percent vote required for a group to ‘remain’ a political party must be received by the ‘political party’s candidate,’” the ruling states.

The justices added that “because relators were not a recognized political party prior to the election, they are not eligible to ‘remain’ a political party based on the outcome of the election.”

In order to regain their party status, the Libertarians must file a party-formation petition that complies with state law, according to the court.

“Therefore, we conclude that Husted properly construed [state law] in determining that only established political parties may retain ballot access based on their candidates’ receiving a specified percentage of the vote,” the opinion states.

Justice William M. O’Neill dissented from his colleagues, classifying Husted’s position as “circular reasoning.”

“It would not have been possible for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld to run as the candidates of the Libertarian Party as there was no such party recognized by the state of Ohio,” he wrote. “That is what this lawsuit is all about. Political parties have to start somewhere.”

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