Libertarians eye Monday deadline in Ohio ballot attempt

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Libertarians are eyeing a Monday deadline in their effort to get their party’s presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, on ballots this fall in swing state Ohio.

Party activists submitted signatures last week on behalf of a different candidate, Charlie Earl, who unsuccessfully ran for Ohio governor in 2014. They say Earl is just a stand-in who will be replaced with Johnson and his running mate.

The secretary of state’s election calendar lists a Monday deadline to fill vacancies caused by candidate withdrawals.

Libertarians are not recognized as a political party in Ohio, so activists sought to collect enough signatures to get Johnson on the ballot by way of a process for independent candidates.

The state’s elections chief has asked local elections boards to validate those signatures by Aug. 19.

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.

Ohio Libertarians say they are trying to give voters in the perennial presidential battleground state another choice.

Whether Johnson’s successful in getting on the ballot could make a difference to Republicans, particularly the fortunes of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is in a close race in the state with Democrat Hillary Clinton. Johnson could complicate the Ohio race for Trump if conservatives who want a smaller government want a choice other than the celebrity billionaire.

If Johnson and running mate William Weld make the Ohio ballot, they’ll appear without the party’s label.

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.