COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Libertarian Party of Ohio appealed a federal judge's order Thursday in an effort to get its gubernatorial candidate on the May primary ballot.
Attorneys for the party also asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to compel Ohio's elections chief to ask for an exemption to avoid printing the primary ballots, which are slated to be mailed to certain military and overseas voters on Saturday. Some local election boards have already printed primary ballots, while others can print them right before mailing them.
Earl's candidacy would have the potential to draw votes from Republican Gov. John Kasich as the incumbent faces likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive.
Secretary of State Jon Husted had disqualified gubernatorial contender Charlie Earl and the Libertarian candidate for attorney general, Steven Linnabary, after their nominating petitions were challenged on two grounds: that signature gatherers failed to comply with Ohio laws requiring them to be either Libertarian or political independents and another requiring them to disclose their employer.
Husted agreed with a hearing officer who found that two Earl petitioners failed to properly disclose their employers.
Libertarians sought to reinstate Earl's ballot status, arguing that Husted's ruling violated petition circulators' First Amendment rights and conflicted with previous state rulings allowing them to submit signatures without declaring an employer.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson ruled against the request, concluding that the law challenged by the party "places only a minimal burden on political speech and the disclosures it requires are substantially related to Ohio's significant interest in deterring and detecting fraud in the candidate petition process."
Separately, Linnabary is asking the Ohio Supreme Court force Husted to certify his candidacy and place him on the May 6 ballot.
Attorneys for Linnabary argue that the man who protested his petitions lacked standing to do so. Linnabary's attorneys also contend the law does not require certain petition circulators to disclose employment because they are independent contractors.
The state's attorneys said Thursday that the high court should deny Linnabary's request because, among other arguments, his petition circulators should have disclosed their employment, regardless of whether they are "employees" or "independent contractors."
"This is a simple case about a candidate who did not follow the law — a law that is plain in its meaning, that is easy to comply with, and that serves an important purpose," attorneys for the state wrote in their court filing.