Judge Enjoins Law That Could Block Ballot Access

     COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – The Libertarian Party won a temporary injunction against a new Ohio law that would force new political parties to submit thousands of signatures so they can get their candidates on the ballot.
     Ohio’s ballot-access law, signed by Gov. John Kasich in July, imposes new requirements on parties that did not receive 5 percent of the vote for gubernatorial or presidential races in the last election. Under the new law, which takes effect on Sept. 30, such parties have 90 days before the 2012 primaries to collect signatures amounting to 1 percent of the total vote in the last election.
     In a lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, the Libertarian Party said the new law interferes with its constitutional rights.
     U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley issued a preliminary injunction against the law last week.
     “The state laws at issue burden two different, but overlapping, rights,” he wrote. “First, they infringe upon ‘the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs,’ and second, ‘the right of qualified voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast their votes effectively.'”
     An injunction is warranted because the party proved that the law imposed a severe burden, according to the 12-page decision.
     “Deadlines so far in advance of the election force minor parties to recruit candidates at a time when major party candidates are not known and when voters are not politically engaged,” Marbley wrote. “In effect, these deadlines protect the two major parties at the expense of a more vigorous, deliberative democracy. Thus, minor parties are limited in attracting candidates to the ballot, and the citizenry may be limited in their ability to cast votes for individuals who represent their beliefs or values.”
     Denying the Libertarian Party access to the ballot constitutes irreparable harm, the judge concluded. “This court finds that this constitutes irreparable injury that is not compensable by monetary damages,” he wrote. “Thus, injunctive relief is appropriate.”
     “In this case, the state has not shown that the laws at issue further compelling state interests,” he added. “In fact, they inhibit the ability of the citizens of Ohio to organize into political parties and to make their voice heard at the level necessary to effect political change.”
     Marbley noted that this suit marks the third time that the Libertarian Party of Ohio has challenged state ballot-access laws. He said his ruling guarantees that the party will appear on the November 2011 ballot.

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