Voting Rights Legislation

SB 193 – Minor Political Parties Regulations (2013-2014)

Link to Bill:
http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_SB_193
Status:
Enacted
Summary:

In 2006 and 2007, federal courts ruled Ohio laws for regulation of minor political parties were unconstitutional.  SB 193 creates new provisions and revises other regulations. Several will apply only in 2014 then become stricter as of 2015.

Under current law and this legislation, minor parties must reach a certain percentage of the most recent statewide vote for president or governor to retain party status for four years. SB 193 creates a minimum threshold of 2 percent in 2014 and 3 percent as of 2015. Minor parties failing to reach the percent required must submit party formation petitions to get back on the ballot. Due to other filing deadline changes in this bill, minor parties will not be able to participate in the 2014 primary.

SB 193 also revises the party formation petition process.  For 2014, petitions must be signed by at least 0.5 percent of the total gubernatorial vote in the 2012 election or approximately 27,000 registered voters. After 2014, the number of signatures must be at least 1 percent of the total vote from the most recent president or governor election.  Additionally, this bill adds the new requirement that these petition signatures must include a minimum of 500 registered voters from half of Ohio’s congressional districts (8 out of 16 currently).

SB 193 also includes these new provisions:

  • Invalidates the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Secretary of State directives for the participation of minor political parties in elections.
  • Stipulates that minor parties must appoint a body of 3 – 5 members to nominate a slate of candidates. These candidates must be approved by the Secretary of State.
  • Requires 50 signatures on party formation petitions for a statewide candidate and 5 for state representative or senator candidate. Specifies the signatures on the nominee’s petition can only be from qualified electors who have not voted for a different political party in any primary election for the previous two calendar years.

 

Primary Sponsors:
Secondary Sponsors:
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Committee:
Policy and Legislative Oversight (H), State Government Oversight and Reform (S)
LSC Legislation Status:
http://lsc.state.oh.us/coderev/sen130.nsf/Senate+Bill+Number/0193?OpenDocument
Jurisdiction/Legislation Level:
State
Our take on this bill:

SB 193 raises many serious concerns by creating new obstacles that unfairly threaten the viability of minor political parties and their candidates.

The bill creates separate standards for 2014 elections, potentially causing confusion.  It ends and disrupts such activities as signature gathering and petition filing already underway for the 2014 election cycle. Minor parties and their candidates will have to discard whatever progress they have made and spend a significant more amount of their limited resources to meet these new standards. Minor parties will also miss their primary in 2014.  Primaries are important elements in the political process because they build name recognition, increase the base of supporters and are the only way voters have to formally identify their party affiliation in Ohio.  There is no reason why these changes must apply to the 2014 election process.

SB 193 further encumbers minor parties by establishing overly burdensome signature gathering requirements, in order to be recognized as an official minor party. Measures of recognizing minor parties should not be based on the geography of congressional districts and the small pool of registered voters who have not participated in the past 2 primaries.

While states have the authority to regulate minor parties, the provisions in SB 193 collectively impose a severe burden on the ability of these parties and their voters to engage in the political process. SB 193 is one of several election bills being considered or passed by the Ohio General Assembly at a rapid pace. Many of them are moving and passing without bipartisan support.  Most of them include provisions that make the election process more difficult, more confusing and less available. The ACLU of Ohio opposes this bill and will fight enactment of these burdensome measures that hurt our democracy.

Bill Status:

Passed out of the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee 10/08/13

Passed the Senate on 10/8/13

Testimony in the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee on 10/8/13

Passed the House on 10/30/13 with Amendments

Passed out of Conference Committee on 11/06/13

Signed by the Governor on 11/06/13

Testimony in the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee on 10/17/13