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Federal appeals court rejects Ohio rules for primary elections

[JURIST] The US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] held Thursday in a 2-1 opinion [text; PDF] that state rules on participation in Ohio's primary elections make it prohibitive for minority parties to be included on the ballot. The court ruled that the requirement that parties must file petitions with signatures 120 days before the election "have a negative impact on minor parties and on political activity as a whole in Ohio" by violating the First Amendment [text] of the US Constitution and imposing "a severe burden on the associational rights of the LPO, its members, and its potential vote-supporters." The Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) [official website] filed the appeal after its 2004 lawsuit against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell [official website], who denied the Libertarian Party access to the ballot, was thrown out by a lower court. A dissent by Judge Griffin points out that "the challenged Ohio election regulations treat the LPO the same as any other political party. The primary election required by the Ohio Constitution and petition filing time requirements chosen by the Ohio General Assembly are not severe, but reasonable, in order to insure a fair, honest, and orderly election."

A federal judge on Friday issued an order [JURIST report] directing Ohio voters to ignore threats of criminal penalties on voter registration forms and instructions [PDF text], saying that new state registration rules which took effect in May after the February passage of the controversial HB 3 election reform bill [text] by the Republican-dominated Ohio Legislature may violate the First Amendment and unduly burden efforts to register voters. AP has more.

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