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Libertarians working to get Gary Johnson on Ohio ballot

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson

GARY JOHNSON

COLUMBUS, Ohio – While Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is set to appear on ballots in at least 39 states, swing state Ohio is among the places where his supporters are still working to get the former New Mexico governor’s name out to voters this fall.

Whether he’s successful 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 on the ballot could complicate the Ohio race for Trump if conservatives who want a smaller government want a choice other than the celebrity billionaire.

And Trump’s prospects in Ohio already are complicated. Gov. John Kasich, defeated by Trump for the GOP nomination, has refused to endorse him. No Republican candidate has been elected president without winning Ohio.

But getting on the ballot is a complicated task involving potential name-swapping, in part because Libertarians are not recognized as a political party in Ohio. On Wednesday, Johnson’s ballot status was uncertain.

A day earlier, Libertarians submitted thousands of signatures on behalf of a different candidate. Party activists say the candidate on the paperwork, Charlie Earl, who ran for Ohio governor in 2014, is just a stand-in who will be replaced with Johnson and his running mate once the petitions are certified by the state’s elections chief.

“That was the only way we could do it,” said Aaron Keith Harris, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party of Ohio.

Libertarians also used a placeholder name in Pennsylvania, another battleground state.

The secretary of state’s office has said it’s not seen a name-swap used before in the presidential race in Ohio, and its legal team will review the situation.

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