Ohio Senate Bill 47 (2013)

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Ohio Senate Bill 47 (2013)
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Legislature:Ohio Legislature
Text:SB 47
Sponsor(s):Sen. Bill Seitz (R-8)
Legislative History
Introduced:February 19, 2013
State house:March 20, 2013
State senate:March 6, 2013
Governor:John Kasich
Signed:March 22,2013
Legal Environment
State law:Laws governing initiatives in Ohio
Code:Elections Code
Section:Chapter 35

Ohio Senate Bill 47 was sponsored and introduced by Senator Bill Seitz (R-8) on February 19, 2013, and signed into law by Governor John Kasich (R) on March 22, 2013. It was approved in the House by a 59-36 vote and in the Senate by a vote of 23-10. Ohio SB 47 made sweeping changes to the state elections code.[1]


Ohio Senate Bill 47 made many changes to the elections code of the state of Ohio, some of which related to initiatives and referenda. Here are some key provisions:

  • A person who signs a petition must live in the precinct in which the candidacy or ballot issue will appear in an election.
  • A person who circulates a petition must be at least 18 years old.
  • A signature on a nominating petition must be dated less than a year before the petition was filed.
  • When a petition is submitted, an electronic copy must also be filed and the petition must be broken into parts that are all numbered sequentially and labeled by the county in which it was circulated. The petition must also include a summary of the parts of the petition and the signatures on each.
  • An initiative or referendum committee cannot collect additional signatures for a petition after it has been submitted, except for in a 10-day window beginning after the Secretary of State notifies the committee that the petition, as submitted, was insufficient. The Secretary of State must then provide the required official form for additional signature collection, which must be used when collecting supplemental signatures in the 10-day window.
  • A petition that has been rejected cannot be resubmitted.
  • County boards of elections must return relevant sections of a petition by 110 days before the intended election date, rather than the previous rule of 60 days.
  • The Secretary of State must determine the sufficiency of the signature petition at least 105 days before the election.

Full Summary and Analysis

A summary and analysis of the bill is available here.


The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, working on behalf of two groups circulating signature petitions for different initiatives, sued Secretary of State Jon Husted (R), who is in charge of enforcing SB 47, arguing that the bill destroys First Amendment rights to free speech.[2]

Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center, explained, "SB 47 consists of a set of back-door mechanisms that have the effect of eliminating initiative and referendum in Ohio, expunging the average citizen from participating in the political process without the assistance of politicians, and strengthening politicians' monopoly on lawmaking."[2]

Matt McClellan, spokesman for Husted, said, "From our end it's pretty straightforward. We can't pick and choose what laws we enforce. We have to enforce all laws."[2]

By 2015, the issue was still in court. Husted filed a petition for the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that he is not at liberty to enforce some laws and not others. Plaintiffs responded by saying that Husted should have known the law was unconstitutional because of a court case over nomination petitions that set a precedent in 2008. The court rejected Husted's attempt to have the case dismissed. On April 15, 2015, Husted announced that he would appeal the decision.[3]

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