CLEVELAND—Despite a federal judge ruling Monday to uphold a 2013 Ohio law that set tougher criteria to qualify for the ballot, minor political parties have won an important concession after all, according to Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio.
Levenson said, “It’s important to recognize that the judge determined that the statute cannot bar minor parties from petitioning to enter elections held in odd-numbered years. The law, Senate Bill 193, did just that and was one of the reasons we challenged its constitutionality.”
Judge Michael H. Watson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio wrote in the decision for Libertarian Party of Ohio, et al. v. Husted, et al. that, “under the doctrine of constitutional avoidance,” the law needs to be interpreted so as not to bar minor parties from accessing the ballot in odd-numbered year elections. The ruling goes further and specifically cautions state officials not to attempt at some later date to apply the law in a manner inconsistent with that interpretation.
In 2013, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 193, which imposed significant hurdles for minor political parties to place candidates on the ballot. Shortly after S.B. 193 was passed into law, the ACLU challenged it in court on behalf of the Green Party of Ohio and the Constitution Party of Ohio.
“Our democracy is stronger when there is a diversity of ideas—and when voters have a diversity of options on Election Day,” Levenson said.