Charles Earl is trying to run for governor of Ohio. A native of Bowling Green, the one-time Republican state representative now represents the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO). As the LPO’s gubernatorial candidate, Earl would challenge current Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrat Ed Fitzgerald come November 2014, possibly siphoning off dissatisfied Ohio voters from Kasich. But Earl’s candidacy is currently in limbo. Last week, Earl received a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted disqualifying him from the May primary ballot. Earl was disqualified on the grounds that those circulating petitions for his inclusion weren’t Libertarian Party members and/or failed to disclose themselves as paid LPO employees.
Ohio requires candidate petitions to be circulated by members of the same political party as the candidate (with party affiliation determined by how one voted in recent primaries—if a dues-paying member of the LPO voted for Republican Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential primary, for instance, he or she can’t circulate or sign petitions for libertarian candidates) or by someone unaffiliated with any party. Several Democrats allegedly helped circulate Earl’s petitions.
A biggest number of Earl’s signatures were collected by Oscar C. Hatchett Jr., a “professional petitioner” paid by the signature. There’s nothing illegal about that: Paying people to collect signatures is just fine. But under Ohio law, petitioners to list, among other things, their “employer.” The secretary of state alleges that Hatchett failed to list the LPO as his employer on this form.
But was the LPO his employer? Hatchett and the party say no. The LPO is now challenging Husted’s ruling in federal court, partially on the grounds that petitioners were independent contractors who couldn’t reasonably be expected to consider the LPO their employer.