On October 10, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Demaine Kitchen may remain on the ballot as an independent candidate for Mayor of Youngstown, despite his personal ties with the Democratic Party in the recent past. Here is the 7-page opinion in State ex rel Monroe v Mahoning County Board of Elections, 2013-4490.
Ohio voter registration forms do not ask voters to choose a party or independent status. In other states (except Montana) that also lack this question on registration forms, anyone who didn’t run in a partisan primary may qualify as an independent candidate if he or she completes the necessary petition. But Ohio, and also Montana, try to enforce a rule that only a “genuine” independent may be an independent candidate, even though this means that the qualifications to be an independent are vague.
Ohio election law section 3501.01(I) defines “independent candidate” as anyone who has submitted a valid petition and “who does not consider himself or herself affiliated with a political party.” Kitchen’s ballot status was challenged on the basis of these points: (1) in the past, he served on the executive committee of the county Democratic Party; (2) in the past he chose a Democratic primary ballot, most recently in 2009; (3) in the past, he was an elected Democratic Party city council member; (4) he is currently an assistant to the outgoing Mayor, who is a Democrat; (5) he was quoted in a newspaper as saying he is running as an independent because “it was more strategic to run as an independent” and that “he didn’t want to saturate the primary.”; (6) he has friendships with members of the Democratic Party.
The Ohio Supreme Court said none of these serve to prove Kitchen isn’t a bona fide independent, so he is on the ballot. One of the justices, William O’Neill, did not sign the opinion, but he concurred in the judgement and did not write his own opinion.