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Friday, November 15, 2013

Federal judge suspends Ohio's restriction on petition circulators

Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich (R) signed into law a new restriction requiring circulators of candidacy petitions to be residents of Ohio. The law states:

Except for a nominating petition for presidential electors, no person shall be allowed to circulate any petition unless the person is a resident of this state and is at least eighteen years of age. O.R.C. 3503.06(C)(1)(a).

In September, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law challenged the law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment, and last week the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) joined the suit.

Today The Columbus Dispatch reports that a federal judge has suspended this provision:

A federal judge late yesterday blocked enforcement of an Ohio law that said only Ohioans can collect signatures to qualify issues or candidates for the ballot.


In granting a preliminary injunction, Judge Michael Watson of the Columbus division of the Southern District said the law is a First Amendment violation.


“It is well established that even a temporary violation of First Amendment rights constitutes irreparable harm,” Watson said.


The court respects the state’s prerogative to regulate petition circulation, Watson wrote, but that does not permit legislation that violates the Constitution.


“Plaintiffs have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits,” Watson wrote.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) and the 1851 Center had requested the preliminary injunction preventing Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) from enforcing the provision citing the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in Nader v. Blackwell, in which the court held that requiring circulators of candidacy petitions to reside in the state violated the First Amendment. 545 F.3d. 459, 475 (6th Cir. 2008).

Yesterday's decision comes just a week after Gov. Kasich signed into law further restrictions on the ability of minor parties to gain access to the ballot. The new restrictions would require minor party candidates to obtain 28,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot in 2014, and the criteria for ballot access would increase after 2015.

The LPO's lawsuit includes allegations that the new law impermissibly restricts it from holding a party primary. The party seeks a preliminary injunction preventing Sec. Husted from removing the LPO from Ohio's primary and general election ballots in 2014.

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http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civil_rights/2013/11/federal-judge-suspends-ohios-restriction-on-petition-circulators.html

Election Law, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink

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