COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Libertarians trying to get a presidential candidate on Ohio’s ballot submitted signatures on Tuesday for someone other than their party’s nominee, Gary Johnson.
The party listed Charlie Earl — a failed 2014 candidate for Ohio governor— on paperwork they say is aimed at getting Johnson on the November ballot.
Earl is just a placeholder, said Aaron Keith Harris, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party of Ohio. Once certified by the state’s elections chief, Libertarians will swap in Johnson and his running mate, he said.
“We wish there was an easier way for us to do it,” Harris said in an interview.
The secretary of state’s office said it will review the situation.
Libertarians are not recognized as a minor political party in Ohio, so activists sought to collect at least 5,000 valid signatures from voters to get their party’s candidate on the fall ballot as an independent.
Party members on Tuesday submitted more than 12,000 signatures to the state’s elections chief in boxes bearing Johnson’s name. They estimate about 7,000 are valid.
Libertarians made no mention of Earl as the candidate listed in the documents until after handing them in.
The Libertarian Party nominated Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, at the party’s convention in late May. But Harris said Ohio Libertarians needed to start collecting signatures before then to ensure the party would have a presidential candidate on ballots in the key swing state.
Given the various petition deadlines and ballot access rules across states, such stand-in candidates are common, said Carla Howell, the national Libertarian Party’s political director. She said she’s a placeholder in four states.
Even if Johnson and running mate William Weld make the ballot, they’ll appear without the party’s label.
“What we’re doing today is giving Ohioans another choice,” Bob Bridges, the chair of the state’s Libertarian Party, told reporters outside Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office.
Ohio’s Republican-led state legislature passed tougher rules for minor political parties in 2013, as the GOP faced growing competition from the tea party.
Libertarians have fought the changes in state and federal court for years. They maintain the law effectively eliminated all minor-party candidates from 2014 primary ballots and unfairly disadvantaged third parties going forward.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka are set appear on Ohio’s ballot with their party’s affiliation.
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