Elec­tion panel tosses mi­nor par­ties’ com­plaint

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Julie Carr Smyth

Reg­u­la­tors de­liv­ered a blow to mi­nor par­ties dis­miss­ing com­plaints that al­leged de­bates this year that ex­cluded their can­di­dates.

COLUM­BUS >> State elec­tion reg­u­la­tors in Ohio de­liv­ered a blow to two mi­nor par­ties on Thurs­day, dis­miss­ing com­plaints that al­leged three de­bates this year that ex­cluded their can­di­dates for gov­er­nor rep­re­sented il­le­gal cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tions.

In a unan­i­mous vote without dis­cus­sion, the Ohio Elec­tions Com­mis­sion tossed out com­plaints brought by the Lib­er­tar­ian and Green par­ties over three face-offs be­tween Re­pub­li­can Mike DeWine and Demo­crat Richard Cor­dray, in­clud­ing one or­ga­nized by the newly formed Ohio De­bate Com­mis­sion.

Fac­ing the com­plaints was an ironic twist for the de­bate com­mis­sion, a pre­sum­ably nonpar­ti­san col­lab­o­ra­tion among civic, me­dia and aca­demic part­ners that said its goal was to bring more ac­count­abil­ity and con­sis­tency to Ohio de­bates.

Re­pub­li­can Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich joined a grow­ing num­ber of high-pro­file can­di­dates around the coun­try when he re­fused to de­bate his ri­val, Demo­crat Ed FitzGer­ald, dur­ing a run­away re-elec­tion bid in 2014. The de­bate process, in gen­eral, has con­cerned voter ad­vo­cates across the U.S. as it’s be­come in­creas­ingly sub­ject to boy­cotts, po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion­ing and on­stage grand-stand­ing that they see as un­help­ful to democ­racy.

But the mi­nor par­ties and their can­di­dates con­tended the new com­mis­sion and de­bate spon­sors ben­e­fited ma­jor par­ties over mi­nor ones.

Specif­i­cally, they al­leged in their elec­tions com­plaints that The City Club of Cleve­land, through its “al­ter-ego” the de­bate com­mis­sion, as well as the Uni­ver­sity of Day­ton and Ma­ri­etta Col­lege, vi­o­lated state elec­tion law by giv­ing DeWine and Cor­dray valu­able ex­clu­sive ex­po­sure that was un­avail­able to third­party can­di­dates.

The gov­er­nor’s race, which DeWine won, also in­cluded Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date Travis Irvine and Green Party can­di­date Con­stance Gadel­lNew­ton.

Com­mis­sioner Scott Nor­man, who led the vote to dis­miss, said he didn’t think the mi­nor par­ties had the law on their side. De­bates fea­tur­ing only the Demo­cratic and Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates are noth­ing new in Ohio.

Gadell-New­ton, an at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented her­self dur­ing Thurs­day’s hear­ing, said she be­lieves that in­deed things have changed.

“I can’t re­ally speak to what has hap­pened in the past,” she said. “But I do think that, right now, there’s a lot of po­lit­i­cal dis­con­tent and peo­ple are look­ing for some­thing new.”

She told com­mis­sion­ers that ex­clud­ing her and Irvine from the de­bates was a dis­ser­vice to vot­ers, democ­racy and the free ex­change of ideas.

Irvine, also present Thurs­day, said he was “sur­prised, but not sur­prised” by the out­come, which Lib­er­tar­ian party of­fi­cials said sim­ply af­firmed the ex­ist­ing “twoparty du­op­oly.”

The Lib­er­tar­i­ans’ ini­tial com­plaint came in Septem­ber, be­tween the first and se­cond de­bates. It al­leges the first de­bate’s spon­sor, the Uni­ver­sity of Day­ton, “planned, spon­sored and staged” the de­bate “af­ter be­ing so­licited and be­ing aided and abet­ted by the Cor­dray and DeWine Cam­paigns.”

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