Green Party to file election lawsuit
Rios to run for Toledo City Council
By Kevin Milliken, Special to La Prensa
Ohio’s Green Party intends to file a lawsuit challenging an election reform bill recently passed by the state legislature that the group claims could mean the end of minority political parties in the Buckeye state.
The bill is prompting Green Party of Ohio co-chair Anita Rios to run for Toledo City Council this year, before the party may lose its political clout. Sean Nestor also is a Green Party candidate seeking a city council seat.
“Whether the State chooses to outlaw us or not, we will continue to fight for what’s right,” said Ms. Rios. “Our fights to end nuclear power, protect workers' rights, and help minorities and
women are too important to let the Republicans and Democrats stop us, just because they are afraid of a little competition.”
The Green Party of Ohio chose the Fourth of July to issue its threat, because party officials believe state lawmakers are launching an attack on democracy, which the holiday celebrates.
HB 194 is a wide-reaching election reform bill designed to streamline the election experience, address incidences of fraud, and increase the use of technology in elections. The bill directly addresses provisional and absentee balloting, the subject of election controversy statewide in recent years. The bill provides statewide standards for handling each form of balloting, although opponents claim it will disenfranchise thousands of poor and urban voters.
The Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate each passed a revised version of the election reform bill last week, sending it to Governor John Kasich for his signature.
The reconciled version of the bill removes ccontroversial photo ID requirements that opponents had threatened to hold up. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had even threatened a lawsuit. Those reforms will be considered as part of a separate bill in the fall. A photo ID voting requirement could have a big impact on Ohio’s Latino population, many of whom have had difficulty obtaining a state identification card or driver’s license in recent years.
Among other things, the election reform bill shrinks the window from in-person early voting from 35 days before Election Day to 17 days, and for absentee voting by mail from 35 days to 21. The bill allows voters to register and change their addresses online, and moves the 2012 presidential primary from March to May.
“Additionally, it will reduce the number of reasons that require an individual to vote provisionally,” State Rep. Anne Gonzáles (R-19th District), a Republican from suburban Columbus wrote in a guest column for community newspapers statewide. “By clarifying the procedures governing absentee and provisional ballots, we can improve accountability and help Ohioans to feel even better about the election process.”
However, the bill also requires minor political parties to receive at least five percent of the vote for either governor or president in order for that party to maintain its status on future ballots. Green Party officials claim its candidates would have to receive approximately 200,000 votes in the 2012 election to survive.
But Green leaders also claim the bill may already cause the party to lose its official recognition before that crucial presidential election and would force candidates to reach that new threshold next year without the ability to raise money, name candidates, hold primaries, or establish membership. As a result, Green Party officials fear the bill effectively kills their ballot access.
Green Party attorney Bob Fitrakis filed a lawsuit challenging a similar provision in recent years, establishing that a political party should only have to show a “modicum of support” to maintain ballot status. Then-Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner interpreted that to mean one percent of the statewide vote for governor or president, equating to about 50,000 votes.
“This bill takes us right back to the five percent requirement that was already found to be unconstitutional,” said Fitrakis.
Green Party attorneys plan to work with other minority parties to fight the bill, claiming the legislation also effectively eliminates the Libertarian, Socialist, and Constitution parties.