On January 30, the Republican National Committee chose Michael Steele of Maryland to be its new national chair. One of the other candidates for chair, Ken Blackwell, dropped out and endorsed Steele after placing last in the fourth ballot.
Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State, behaved with hostility toward minor parties and independent candidates while he was Secretary of State in 2003 and 2004. In late 2003, he rejected the Ohio Libertarian Party’s petition because the wording on the petition changed while the party was conducting its petition. When the party started its petition, the petition was supposed to say, “The penalty for election falsification is imprisonment for not more than 6 months or a fine of not more than $1,000 or both.” During the drive, the state changed the petition so that it said instead, “Whoever commits election falsification is guilty of a felony of the 5th degree.” The party didn’t know about the wording change, and was shocked when it submitted the petition and Blackwell rejected it because of the wording.
In 2004, Blackwell rejected Ralph Nader’s independent petition because most of the signatures had been collected by people that perhaps were domiciled outside Ohio (although this was never resolved). At approximately the same time Blackwell rejected Nader’s petition, he waived the rules to allow an initiative petition to appear on the ballot even though its circulators had not been domiciled in Ohio.
Blackwell’s behavior kept Nader off the 2004 ballot, and kept the Libertarian Party off the 2004 ballot (although it qualified its presidential candidate as an independent). However, after the 2004 election was over, courts struck down the Ohio procedure for new parties to qualify, and struck down the Ohio law barring out-of-state circulators from working on an independent candidate petition, so Blackwell’s behavior was ultimately good for ballot access.