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:

 

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