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Proposed Ballot Initiative Change Requires Involvement From More Counties

Voters cast their ballot early at the Franklin County Board of Elections last November.
Karen Kasler
Voters cast their ballot early at the Franklin County Board of Elections last November.

A resolution seems to be gaining momentum in the Ohio House that would change the process for putting a constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot. Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) wants to keep the total amount of signatures at the same threshold but require more of those signatures to come from more Ohio counties.

To put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a group must gather signatures that total 10% of the last gubernatorial election. Of that total, signatures must come from at least 44 counties and the amount of signatures from each of those counties must equal at least 5% of the last gubernatorial election. 

Koehler's proposal would require petitioners to get signatures from 53 counties, and from each county, 10% of the last gubernatorial election.

"Anytime we're changing the constitution, we are carving something into stone. It is very hard to change. And I think it's important to let everybody have a say," says Koehler.

He notes 2018's Issue 1, Marcy's Law, as an example. The initiative received a lot of money from wealthy, out-of-state donors, such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Koehler says his proposed change would allow Ohio citizens to have more involvement in the initiative process. 

Ballot access groups say Koehler's proposal would have the opposite effect.

"The citizen initiative is not overused but if you actually make it more complicated then of course you're putting direct democracy in the hands of only the wealthy and out of the hands of citizen groups," says Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio.

Koehler's resolution is expected to be scheduled for a committee hearing in September. 

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