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Ohio’s Newly Open Elections Enfranchise Voters

NOTE: I saw this posted on Progress Ohio‘s web site and could not resist the temptation to write about it.

One of the chief excuses given for dismissing independent candidates for public office is their perceived lack of name recognition. In some states including Ohio, that excuse has been made much tougher to bring out now that political parties outside the Democrat-Republican paradigm have been granted official recognition on state and local ballots.

This year, voters in Ohio may be surprised by the choices afforded them on their primary and general election ballots, as six parties have qualified for ballot access this November. Back in January, John Michael Spinelli reported on the state’s new ballot access regime at the Examiner, writing:

The Republican and Democratic Parties in Ohio will no longer have a lock on access to the ballot now that state election officials, making good on a court decision in the fall of 2006 that found the laws for political party formation and ballot access were unconstitutional, have enabled candidates running under the party name of Libertarian, Green, Socialist and Constitutional to join in the fun that is our representative system of government.

The good news for these outsider parties came in a state directive to all 88 county Boards of Election (BOE) that given that the General Assembly has not yet enacted a new ballot access statute following the September 6, 2006 court decision, and given the high likelihood of success on the merits of any new lawsuit to obtain ballot access, they are "hereby instructed to continue to recognize these political parties and to grant candidates of these political parties ballot access in the 2010 election cycle."

There are not [sic] four declared candidates for governor, including Green Dennis Spisak and Libertarian Ken Matesz. The most crowded race at this point appears to be the US Senate contest to replace Republican George Voinovich, who is retiring this year. Aside from the stooges of the Democratic-Republican political establishment, voters will choose from a wide array of candidates, including Eric Deaton of the Constitution Party, Socialist Party candidate Dan Labotz, and five independent candidates for the office, among them Stephen Lahanas, whose articles I have excerpted here at Poli-Tea before. (See Politics1 – Ohio, for a complete listing.)

Having access to party identification on the ballot has ramifications that go beyond simply raising awareness of who is running as an independent. It has effectively challenged, if not broken, the stranglehold the two major parties have on Ohio. Now voters can choose from among a variety of recognized political parties that may now officially compete with the Democrats and Republicans. It will still take years to build up effective left wing organizations, but the foundation appears to have been laid.

2010 just might be the year in which the one-party system that pretends to be a two-party one finally sees a real challenge to its power. Only time will tell if that challenge is successful. But for the moment, there is one less excuse with which to dismiss third parties.

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