Cheney story illuminates wider ballot access issues

If you are not fully familiar with the developments surrounding the would-be independent candidacy of Brian Cheney for Allen County Commissioner, read the initial story at The Lima News and the recent follow-up article.

First and foremost, this press release is not authored with the intent to comment on any of the particulars surrounding the Allen County Board of Elections’ decision to reject Brian Cheney’s candidate petitions for county commissioner, his ties with other local public figures, or even Cheney himself.

The one hidden story in the recent events that warrants greater exploration is the fact Cheney – in order to run as an independent candidate – had to gather almost seven times as many signatures as any of the major party candidates and more than 13 times as many as a minor party candidate.

State election laws require independent candidates for an office to gather signatures equivalent to one percent of the votes cast in the previous election for the given electoral jurisdiction. In the case of Allen County Commissioner in 2012, a prospective independent had to get 330 valid signatures – compared to 50 for someone vying for a major party nomination and 25 for those of us affiliated with a minor party.

It should not be difficult to conclude the wide disparity in requirements is nonsensical.

As a current and past candidate for elected office, have I benefited from such variations? Yes, of course. Do I agree with this setup? That answer is, “Absolutely not.”

The only possible legitimate argument for placing such a high threshold for independent candidates is the fact any registered voter may sign one of their petitions regardless of how the Ohio Secretary of State’s office lists their party affiliation (which is another issue in and of itself regarding violation of voters’ privacy rights – but as usual, I digress) – thus an independent candidate has a potential “unfair” advantage by having any-and-all would-be petition signers available to them.

In truth, it is an underhanded means of deterring anyone who would demonstrate the audacity to engage in the electoral process outside of the party system.

For my personal perspective, it is my hope the situation involving Brian Cheney proves to be nothing more than an honest mistake. It would seem obvious to me the inevitable “mad dash” for signatures – created by the State of Ohio’s disparate candidate requirements – is sure to increase the likelihood of mistakes being made. Also, as evidenced by my body of essays and posts in social media, I simply am not a fan of aggressive prosecution for non-violent offenses.

As all this relates to Ohio election laws, my hope is now that the potential consequences of these provisions have hit close-to-home for someone in leadership in the state’s prevailing majority party (meaning, Allen County Republican Party Chair Keith Cheney), we may finally see some long-overdue reform of those laws that actually fits such a description.

Don Kissick
Chair, Allen County Libertarian Party of Ohio

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