Ohio voters may have more choices in presidential race

Two former governors running for president and vice president as Libertarians may be allowed on the Ohio ballot as independents, according to a decision announced Monday by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Libertarian Charlie Earl, who unsuccessfully ran for Ohio governor in 2014, wants to pull his name from the ballot and substitute in former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Likewise, Earl’s running mate Kenneth Moellman, Jr., would be replaced by Johnson’s VP pick, William Weld, who served as governor of Massachusetts in the 1990s.

The swap hinges on verification that Earl and Moellman petitions had enough registered voter signatures to land them on the ballot in the first place. The secretary of state asked county boards of elections to validate those signatures by Aug. 19.

Husted noted that Ohio law is silent on whether substitutes for verified candidates can be made. “The law being unclear, Secretary Husted believes the spirit of ballot access should prevail,” his office said.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio is not a recognized political party in the state so Johnson and Weld would appear on the ballot without a party listing.

Earl and Moellman were acting as placeholders in Ohio. 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.

Johnson was a Republican while serving as New Mexico governor.

Meanwhile, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka are set appear on Ohio’s ballot with their party’s affiliation.

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.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

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