Ohio Slot Machines Veto Referendum (2010)

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The Ohio Slot Machines Referendum did not appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot as a veto referendum. The veto referendum called for placing Gov. Ted Strickland's plan for video slot machines on the 2010 ballot.[1] The governor's plan included a total of 17,500 video slot machines at 7 race tracks.

On June 28, 2010 LetOhioVote submitted a letter to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announcing the withdrawal of previously submitted petitions. According to reports, supporters - LetOhioVote.org - cited "legal shifts since the slots were made legal last year" including the November 3, 2009 vote to allow casinos in four cities.[2] The withdrawal from the fall ballot cleared the way Gov. Ted Strickland's plan to add 17,500 video slot machines to seven horse tracks. Initially state officials estimated that the new slot machines would generate $933 million, however, that estimate was created with a May 2010 implementation date.[3][4][5]

The letter of withdrawal can be read here.

The Ohio Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of allowing the measure on the ballot in September 2009.[6] However, Gov. Ted Strickland said he planned to seek a court ruling to determine if the governor has the authority to implement slots.[7] Initially the referendum was rejected by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office.

Referendum supporters were required to collect a minimum of 241,365 valid signatures in order to place the referendum on the 2010 ballot. Supporters submitted 325,496 signatures, about 84,000 more signatures than required.[7] However, in January 2010 Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said that of the submitted signatures only 214,301 were valid, falling 27,000 signatures short. Referendum supporters, however, had 10 days to file additional signatures.[8] An additional 177,000 signatures were filed in February. On March 26 the secretary of state certified the measure for the 2010 ballot after determining that approximately 321,389 total valid signatures were submitted.[9]

Aftermath

Although the measure was withdrawn from the ballot, Strickland's plan for slot machines remains in question. Following the November 2, 2010 elections, Strickland was not re-elected. John Kasich is the Governor-elect of Ohio and said he wants to review the slots plan before it is implemented. According to reports, it was expected that Kasich would have immediately eliminated the slots plan, however Kasich has instead opted to review the approved plan. Whether changes are to be made, remains unknown.[10]

Campaign contributions lawsuit

See also: Ohio Slots Referendum - donors investigation

On December 21, 2010 LetOhioVote.org filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the source of the campaign's more than $1.5 million contributions.[11] Although the measure did not appear on the 2010 ballot state officials continued to investigate the groups donors. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner began the investigation in February 2010. In an effort to halt Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's investigation of LetOhioVote.org's funds, the group called on the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene. However, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz Jr. in Cincinnati, Ohio ruled on September 22, 2010 that Brunner had the right to investigation LetOhioVote.org.

In regard to the December 2010 lawsuit the group argues that they do not have to disclose their donors and that Brunner's investigation is a violation of their First Amendment rights. "Defendants have no legitimate interest ... in forcing disclosure," said the group.[12]

Background

On March 11, 2010 began considering legislation to allow video slot machines in bowling alleys as well as race tracks.[13]

Budget places slots on hold

The state's plan to place a total of 17,500 video slot machines at 7 race tracks has been placed on hold in October 2009. The announcement came shortly after Gov. Ted Strickland's approval of suspending tax cuts in an attempt to balance the state budget. The suspended tax cuts are estimated to generate $844 million.[14]

Gov. seeks clarification on authority

On September 30th, 2009, Gov. Strickland announced his plans to put the Slot Machines plan on hold. Strickland said he was waiting for clarification from The Ohio Supreme Court as to whether he has executive powers to overrule the voters. If he was given those powers, he planned to move ahead with the slot machines plan.[14]

Lawsuit

On July 20, 2009, the group LetOhioVote.org filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to allow a veto referendum in an effort to block the slots plan from going into effect.[1] LetOhioVote.org won their lawsuit. The Ohio Supreme Court voted 6-1 to allow the veto referendum petition.[15]

Prior to the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, the plan was rejected on the basis that the plan was added to the state budget and therefore exempt from the referendum process.[16]

Donors investigation

In February 2010 Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner began an investigation on who was funding LetOhioVote.org, the main organization leading the referendum effort. According to campaign finance reports, LetOhioVote.org received about $1.6 million in funds from a Virginia-based nonprofit organization - New Models. Individual donors were not identified. Brunner said, "Using a 'straw person' out-of-state corporation to hide the real sources of funding not only violates the public trust, it looks like concealment, which is against the law." However, LetOhioVote.org argued that they complied with all state laws. "It's pretty clear this is a fishing expedition that will most likely waste tax dollars and time," Carlo LoParo, a Columbus Consultant, said. According to reports, Brunner issued subpoenas to several people linked to the group, including: LetOhioVote.org; New Models of Washington, D.C.; LoParo; former state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr.; Columbus consultant Gene Pierce; Tim Crawford, president and treasurer of New Models; Norman Cummings, a former Blackwell campaign consultant who helped set up LetOhioVote's website.[17][18]

Possible violations:
According to Brunner, she could file complaints to the Ohio Elections Commission on two bases:[17]

  1. Election law requires corporations to disclose involvement in a ballot issue, whether it is proposed or certified
  2. Election law prohibits the concealment of campaign funds contributions

If LetOhioVote or any of the related organizations were found guilty by the commission they would have been subject to fines or the case could be referred for criminal prosecution where jail time was a possibility.[17]

Lawsuit to halt investigation

In an effort to halt Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's investigation of LetOhioVote.org's funds, the group called on the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene. In a brief to the court, filed March 1, the group's attorney said, "Secretary Brunner is patently and unambiguously without authority to issue subpoenas, to compel testimony, to command production of documents, or to seek to enforce the subpoenas in furtherance of an investigation into whether LetOhioVote.org violated any campaign finance laws." LetOhioVote argued that Brunner was only allowed, by state law, to review the campaign finance reports and determine compliance. However, any violations must be referred to the Ohio Election Commission.[19][20]

Of the organizations actions, Brunner said that she was not surprised. The secretary of state said she continued to stand by the investigation and reiterated that it was "required and authorized by law." Additionally, she said, "Going to court probably worsens its case in the court of public opinion."[21][22]

On March 2, 2010 the Ohio Supreme Court granted LetOhioVote.org’s request to halt the investigation until justices could determine if the secretary of state had proper authority. The high court requested evidence and written arguments in the next 30 days.[23]

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz Jr. in Cincinnati, Ohio ruled on September 22, 2010 that Brunner had the right to investigation LetOhioVote.org. The Ohio Supreme Court also ruled the Brunner had the right to financial records from key supporters and opponents.[24]

Path to the ballot

See also: Ohio signature requirements

During the week of October 6, 2009, the state gave the go-ahead for the group to start collecting signatures for the approved petition. The Attorney General, Richard Cordray, approved the petition language, which gave the group 90 days to collect the required 241,365 signatures to place the question on the November ballot. The group was required to submit the petition no later than December 20, 2009.[25]

Signature summary

  • Minimum required signatures: 241,365
  • Filed signatures (1st attempt): 325,496
  • Valid signatures: 214,300
  • Filed signatures (2nd attempt): 177,000
  • Total valid signatures: 321,389

Submitted signatures

Referendum supporters said on December 4, 2009 that they had collected more than enough signatures to place the measure on the 2010 ballot. Gene Pierce, spokesperson for LetOhioVote.org, said, "We're over the 241,000. That's what we've got in hand now, and we've got another two weeks to collect."[26][27]

Referendum supporters submitted 325,496 signatures, about 84,000 more signatures than required.[28][7] However, in January 2010 Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said that of the submitted signatures only 214,301 were valid, falling 27,000 signatures short. Referendum supporters had 10 days to file additional signatures.[8][29] On February 9, supporters filed an additional 177,000 new signatures with the secretary of state's office.[30]

On March 26 the secretary of state certified the measure for the 2010 ballot after determining that approximately 321,389 total valid signatures were submitted.[9][31]

Signatures questioned

Ohio slots referendum opponents called into question several of the signatures submitted to place the measure on the November 2, 2010 statewide ballot. Racetrack owners argued that their research revealed that at least 12 of the petition circulators are felons and the collected signatures should no longer be considered valid. However, LetOhioVote.org said,"We're confident our circulators have followed all necessary laws." The research conducted, said LetOhioVote.org, used data (Social Security numbers, middle names and birthdays) that possibly could have identified the wrong individuals. If submitted signatures were disqualified, referendum supporters would have had 10 days to submit additional signatures.[7]

Timeline

  • July 20, 2009: LetOhioVote.org filed a lawsuit to allow the proposed referendum to proceed
  • September 2009: the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the state's slot machines plan was subject to a possible voter referendum
  • September 30, 2009: the governor sought clarification on his authority to overrule voters and enact the slot machines plan
  • October 2009: the proposed slots plan was placed on hold following budget discussions
  • December 2009: Referendum supporters filed 325,496 signatures
  • January 2010: Only 214,302 signatures were deemed valid, 27,000 short of requirement
  • February 9, 2010: 177,000 additional signatures were filed by supporters
  • February 2010: Secretary of State began an investigation of LetOhioVote.org donors
  • March 1, 2010: LetOhioVote called on Ohio Supreme Court to halt Secretary of State's investigation of campaign funds
  • March 2, 2010: The Ohio Supreme Court granted LetOhioVote.org’s request to halt the investigation by the secretary of state.
  • March 26, 2010: The secretary of state certified the measure for the 2010 ballot.

See also

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ApprovedaOhio Casino Initiative (2009)

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Columbus Dispatch,"Brunner's office rules out slots vote," July 24, 2009
  2. 10TV,"Backers Withdraw Petitions For Fall Slots Vote," June 28, 2010
  3. The Plain Dealer,"Group seeking to block slot machines at Ohio horse racing tracks gives up fight," June 28, 2010
  4. The Columbus Dispatch,"Group ends ballot challenge to slots at horse tracks: LetOhioVote no longer will fight Strickland's plan," June 28, 2010
  5. Dayton Business Journal,"Group drops bid to put slots referendum on Ohio ballot," June 28, 2010
  6. Marietta Register,"Supreme Court ruling throws state budget back into the wind," September 30, 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 The Columbus Dispatch,"Felons gathered signatures for slots issue, opponents say," January 7, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 Business First of Columbus,"Slots referendum backers fall short on signatures," January 29, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Columbus Dispatch,"Track slots make November ballot," March 27, 2010
  10. Casino Gambling Web,"Ohio Slot Gambling At Tracks On Hold Until Governor-Elect Review," November 13, 2010
  11. The Columbus Dispatch," Backer of referendum sues Brunner," December 23, 2010
  12. Cinicinnati.com,"Anti-slots group sues over donors," December 21, 2010
  13. WTOL,"Video slot machines may be coming to more venues," March 11, 2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 The News Leader, "Budget shift puts casino plans on hold," October 7, 2009
  15. Middletown Journal,"Ohio Supreme Court allows vote on racetrack slots," September 22, 2009
  16. The Dayton Business Journal,"Deal reached on Ohio state budget," July 10, 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 The Cincinnati Enquirer,"Secretary of State seeks source of LetOhioVote.org funding," February 19, 2010
  18. The Columbus Dispatch,"Brunner probing anti-slots group," February 18, 2010
  19. The Columbus Dispatch,"LetOhioVote challenges Brunner's subpoenas," March 2, 2010
  20. The Enquirer,"LetOhioVote seeks High Court help," March 1, 2010
  21. The Plain Dealer,"Anti-slots group sues secretary of state; tries to stop probe into its mysterious funding," March 1, 2010
  22. The Toledo Blade,"Court asked to halt slots probe," March 2, 2010
  23. The Enquirer,"Supreme Court halts subpoenas," March 2, 2010
  24. Associated Press,"Judge: Ohio slots opponents can be subpoenaed," September 23, 2010
  25. Columbus Business First, "Clock begins ticking for slots referendum backers," October 6, 2009
  26. The Columbus Dispatch,"Slots foes predict signature surplus," December 5, 2009
  27. The Columbus Dispatch,"Slots opponents claim enough signatures to force referendum," December 4, 2009
  28. The Columbus Dispatch,"Slots foes finishing signature effort," December 17, 2009
  29. Toledo Blade,"More federal help pursued by Strickland," January 29, 2010
  30. The Columbus Dispatch,"Anti-slots group files more names in referendum bid," February 9, 2010
  31. The Plain Dealer,"Group to put slot machine gambling up to statewide vote," March 26, 2010