This editorial was published in the Toledo, Ohio Blade:
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Voters frustrated by having to choose between Democrats and Republicans at the ballot box could soon see some more options when they head to the polls.
Minor parties have faced daunting barriers to ballot recognition since a 2013 law toughened the rules for ballot access in Ohio. Libertarians lost their minor-party status and their candidates have not appeared on the ballot with their party names attached since then.
The party sued Ohio in 2016 after Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was forced to appear on the ballot as an independent. He won just a bit more than the 3 percent of the vote that year, meeting the threshold for minor-party designation. Still, Libertarians had to collect more than 100,000 signatures in Ohio and appeal to Secretary of State Jon Husted to regain ballot access.
Michigan voters will see Libertarian candidates for the first time ever on their August primary ballots, also thanks to Mr. Johnson’s 2016 showing. A third-party candidate has not appeared on a Michigan ballot since 1998.
Libertarians and other minor parties also won a court fight in Pennsylvania earlier this year that will make it easier for their candidates to appear on the ballot there.
In many states, the powerful mainstream parties succeeded in creating election laws that set the bar unreasonably high for so-called third parties.
In Pennsylvania, third-party candidates were required to collect many more signatures on nominating petitions — sometimes 30 times more — than Democrats and Republicans.
In 2012, candidates from the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian parties sued, claiming the barriers were unconstitutional. A settlement in that case earlier this year cuts the signature requirement for third-party candidates to 5,000 names and eliminates provisions that used to require those candidates to pay for legal challenges to their petitions.
If voters’ choices in the last couple of years have demonstrated anything, it’s that they’re dissatisfied with only being able to choose between mainstream Republicans and Democrats.
Barriers to candidates from smaller parties, or independents, weren’t designed to protect the integrity of voting. They were designed to protect the dominance of the major parties and their candidates.
Meanwhile, voter participation is often depressingly low — slightly more than half of voting-age Americans cast a ballot in 2016, and that was a high-turnout year — prompting pundits to throw up their hands and decry citizen apathy.
But it’s likely voters are less apathetic than they are fed up with the limited options at the polling place. What if instead of choosing between two candidates you didn’t like at all, you had a few more names and platforms to choose from?
Of course, with the major party fund-raisers and institutions behind them, Democrats and Republicans still have an advantage. After getting a spot on the ballot, Libertarians and other parties must recruit full slates of serious candidates and get access to debates, among other challenges.
But the real winners in the recent ballot-recognition victories are voters, too many of whom were not seeing their values and priorities reflected in their options on election day. There are a lot more colors in the political spectrum than red and blue.