In 2012, Ohio Republicans used early voting restrictions to limit turnout among reliably Democratic voting groups.

Now they are continuing their efforts to restrict the voices of their political opposition. Republicans, safely in the majority in both chambers of the legislature, are fast-tracking legislation that would dramatically weaken efforts to overturn the laws that they pass.

Senate Bill 47 contains language that would greatly restrict signature-gathering efforts to put unpopular legislation on the ballot for repeal.

In Ohio, laws take effect 90 days after they are signed. The state constitution offers citizens the opportunity to subject laws to a referendum – putting them on hold until voters weigh in at the ballot box. Because of the extremely high bar for putting a law up for referendum — hundreds of thousands of signatures obtained in at least half of Ohio’s counties in less than 3 months — it already can only be undertaken by extremely nimble organizations able to raise millions of dollars to rapidly deploy signature-gatherers across the state.

SB47 will make it even harder. The bill prohibits signature collection during the time — often many weeks — during which petitions are reviewed by election officials. If petitions are found to have insufficient valid signatures, organizers will have just 10 days to recruit new signature gatherers, distribute revised petitions around the state and get them back for submission. This is in contrast to current practice where signature-gathering efforts continue with existing volunteers and forms during the review phase. All momentum will be lost during the review and much of the 10-day “cure” period will be spent recruiting, training and distributing new petitions.

GOP backers argue this is merely an effort to conform to the Ohio constitution. But it’s not true. Ohio’s Constitution merely sets a deadline 10 days after a ruling to submit more signatures. It says nothing about when they are collected.

SB47 is on the fast track – passed after just three hearings in the Senate on March 6, the bill was introduced in the House the next day and is set for its second hearing and a vote this week. It will be on its way to the Governor for his signature before the end of the week if we don’t act.

Here’s what you can do:

  • I contacted my representative, and I was given the standard talking points (conforming to the Ohio constitution) mentioned in this post. I replied with some talking points of my own…


    Terrible. Why does the GOP in Ohio behave like Dixiecrats???????

  • mrgavel

    Because both want to restrict the rights of African-Americans to vote and participate in the democratic process?

  • emptynextmom

    One point left out of this article: it does not refute the false
    argument of sponsors that SB 47 keep drumbeating when people have
    contacted their R legislators. The argument they make is that SB 47
    makes the petition process more fair through uniformity. The argument
    is false because SB 47 just replaces one “non-uniformity” with
    another, just as consequential, “non-uniformity.” The current variation
    for signature collecting time during validation, which has been 16 to
    58 days, will be replaced under SB 47 by a similar variation in the
    time for a disruptive signature collecting freeze. If the sponsors were
    truly motivated by fairness through uniformity, they would simply
    impose a fixed time for validation, a point made during the testimony in
    the Senate Hearing.

    A second point mentioned in the article
    but that deserves additional emphasis is the point about revised
    petitions needing to be printed and distributed for the final ten days
    of signature collection. This is a truly ridiculous, purely
    obstructive, provision of SB 47 that was added at the very end of the
    Senate Committee hearing. So, under SB 47, new petitions have to be
    printed on just one day’s notice “with a unique identifier” issued by
    the SOS on the day before the final ten days of signature collecting.
    The time for printing and distributing these new petitions will take up
    some of the ten days of final signature collecting, a completely
    unnecessary obstacle. (Oh, and by the way, if a petition effort is
    particularly well funded, the printing and distribution can happen more
    quickly; that’s fairness through uniformity for you!).

  • Governor Kasich signed SB 47 into law on Monday, yet the Dispatch hasn’t even printed a story about it yet.

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