A new Ohio law gives local election boards and the Secretary of State the power to block petitions for local ordinances and charter amendments from going to the ballot to be decided by voters.

Even after the petition submission deadline dates for many states have passed, efforts are underway to collect signatures for the 2015 ballot and beyond.  In Ohio, a green energy initiative was given the go-ahead to begin gathering signatures to place a series of clean energy proposals on the ballot in 2015.

Now that the Ohio Ballot Board has approved the language, the group Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future needs to collect at least 385,000 verified voter signatures in the Buckeye State to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot next year.  The proposed amendment would spend $1.3 billion each year improving infrastructure and developing  clean energy sources such as geothermal and solar.

A group of residents, upset by the city’s plans to construct a new parking lot downtown and remove a ballfield, is circulating a referendum petition that it hopes will put the issue on the November ballot.

“We would like to see no loss of recreational space,” said resident Rita Scott, who is spearheading a committee of 12 residents who are circulating the petition. “There are lots of options for parking.”

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin believes the Kiwanis-Moore Playground project, which consists of a parking lot, walkway, field improvements and landscaping, “is a first step toward improving Town Center, which can be the core of growth and activity that benefits everyone.”

Two organizations, Judicial Watch and Allied Educational Foundation, have filed an amicus curiae brief in the federal lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, which seeks a permanent injunction against an Ohio law that bans the recruitment of out-of-state petitioners to collect signatures for ballot initiatives.

“This Ohio law unlawfully limits the right of the people to govern themselves through the initiative process,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Ohio’s law intrudes on a fundamental right not often emphasized by politicians – the citizens’ right to place additional checks on the power of their elected representatives.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has rejected a petition for the proposed “Ohio Voters Bill of Rights” because the summary of the petition was not “a fair and truthful statement of the measure to be referred.”

On February 4, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received a written petition from a group called Ohioans for a Voters Bill of Rights to amend the Ohio Constitution via the “Ohio Voters Bill of Rights.” Attorney General DeWine’s letter rejected the summary because it contained at least two misrepresentations regarding issues where the Ohio Constitution is pre-empted by federal law.

Ohio: Becker, Hagan unite

Thu, Jan 23 2014 — Source: The Columbus Dispatch

Two Ohio House Reps. pushed forward today on their proposal to implement statewide recall elections but openly acknowledged they are facing an uphill battle.

Rep. John Becker, a Republican from suburban Cincinnati, and Rep. Robert F. Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, held a press conference this morning to highlight a recently introduced House resolution that would allow for recall elections of all officials elected in Ohio — “from dogcatcher to governor” in Becker’s words.

The Dispatch first reported last week that the representatives were considering submitting the resolution, which was submitted to the House on Jan. 15.

A group wants Columbus residents to vote on whether the city should be paying for its professional hockey team’s home arena, and it has collected enough signatures to get the issue on the May ballot.

That means voters will be asked whether to end the city’s purchase contract for Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Read More: here

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of an Ohio law barring out-of-state residents from circulating petitions needed to place an issue or candidate on the ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson said in ruling this week that he could identify no harm that would come to the state from allowing nonresidents to gather signatures.

The injunction comes in a dual challenge by the Libertarian Party of Ohio and a group that includes Citizens in Charge, a ballot access organization, and backers of two active ballot campaigns.

Read More: here

On November 13, an injunction was issued in Ohio’s Southern District Court for the case of Citizens in Charge, Inc. et al. v. Husted, which challenges Ohio’s residency requirement laws.  This decision enjoins the state from enforcing the provisions of Senate Bill 47, which places restrictions on petition circulators in violation of their Constitutional 1st Amendment rights.

The decision, made by Judge Watson of the Columbus division of the Southern District of Ohio, indicated that the law violated political speech protected by the First Amendment.

Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek writes in praise of a lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, filed in federal court by Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and seeking to overturn Senate Bill 47, which restricts non-residents from helping to gather signatures and reduces the time sponsors have to petition. SB 47 passed on entirely partisan votes in the legislature and was signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich earlier this year. 

Johanek quotes Maurice Thompson, the 1851 Center’s executive director: “We like the checks on government that the initiative and referendum provides, and the opportunities for citizens to take lawmaking power into their own hands and deal directly with the issues.”

Despite a well-funded campaign, with much of the money coming from out of state, backers of a referendum to allow “Internet cafe” gambling in Ohio lost their battle last week. Instead of admitting defeat gracefully, some in the group blamed the system.

That is, they noted their campaign to put the issue on the November 2014 election ballot was the first under new requirements for statewide referendums. The requirements are too demanding, they added.

Internet cafe supporters are not the first to complain about the referendum rules. Reportedly, the Columbus-based 1851 Center for Constitutional Law are planning a court challenge to the rules.

A vital section of the Ohio Constitution, subtitled “In whom power vested,” was the focus of a federal court hearing last week in Columbus. The lawsuit before U.S. District Court dealt with the right of citizens to petition their government and with freedom of speech.

What a libertarian-leaning public interest law center aims to accomplish by filing a federal suit against a new Ohio law that restricts the referendum process goes to the heart of government of, by, and for the people. The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law — typically aligned with conservative causes — is fighting to uphold a fundamental right.

A referendum campaign to overturn an Ohio Internet-sweepstakes-cafe law appears to have fizzled, but backers may not know for sure until today.

The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs stopped collecting signatures on an updated referendum petition yesterday and began taking inventory of what already had been gathered, spokesman Mark Weaver said.

Asked whether the committee will file with Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office by today’s deadline, Weaver said, “If we have enough (signatures), we’ll file. If we don’t, we won’t.”

Read More: here

It’s not every day that you come across an issue that unites the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

Nor are there many issues on which the two Democratic candidates for Cincinnati mayor, John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls, agree.

But Issue 4, the tea party-backed charter amendment that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, is one of them.

A group of Cincinnatians who call themselves Cincinnati For Pension Reform – some of them tea party activists – mounted a successful petition drive to put Issue 4, which would essentially switch city employees to a 401K system, on the ballot.

Read More: here

Last Friday, Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a non-partisan legal foundation, filed a federal court challenge against Senate Bill 47, which reinstitutes a residency requirement (struck down previously in federal court) and also reduces the time petitioners have to gather signatures. The law, passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich, went into effect in June.