Guest Post by Bentley Davis
Most readers of this blog have circulated petitions for either a citizen’s referendum or a citizen’s initiative. In recent years, I and members of my organization – the Alliance for Retired Americans – did so to overturn SB5 and HB194 and we collected signatures to put fair districts on the ballot. People with whom I disagree collect signatures to put other issues on the ballot too. The ability to have a citizen’s veto or initiative is important to all Ohioans.
This process has been in place since 1912. And we think it is a good process to have. It allows citizens to overturn bad laws. It gives Ohio citizens the opportunity to vote on issues that the legislature won’t put on the ballot of their own accord. I don’t always like the issues that are put on the ballot. And I am vehemently opposed to some. But that is our right. We can sign the petitions or not to get it on the ballot. Once something is on the ballot, we can fight for it or against it.
For those who have circulated petitions, you know the process isn’t easy. It takes tons of volunteers (or paid signature gatherers) to get the hundreds of thousands of necessary valid signatures from at least 44 different counties. The existing hurdles are fair. We need access to the ballot, but the requisite number of signatures and the geographic distribution assures that a significant number of people throughout the state are concerned about the issue at hand.
There are some in the legislature who want to make this difficult process even harder. Currently, there is a bill, Senate Bill 47 that is moving quickly through the senate. It has gotten very little media attention. But it is a bad bill. This bill will make it harder to collect these hard earned signatures.
The biggest problem in this bill is that we would no longer be allowed to collect signatures while the Secretary of State and the Boards of Elections are validating the petitions submitted. If the signatures turn up short, we would have ten days to collect additional signatures, but the gathering process would need to be halted and restarted. This is a huge problem. We have always been permitted to continue to collect signatures during this period. And there are several ballot measures that would not have been able to obtain the adequate number of valid signatures without this ability.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just a “fix”. The legislators supporting this bill simply want to make it harder for Ohioans to have their voices heard.