Procedures for qualifying an initiative in Ohio
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- Initiate amendments to the Ohio Constitution.
- Initiate new laws.
- Overturn laws passed by the Ohio State Legislature.
Steps to begin the process
The initial filing
These steps apply to all three forms of direct democracy:
- The proponents of the measure must designate a committee of not less than three (3) nor more than five (5) persons to represent them in all matters relating to the petition.
- Next, a written petition signed by 1000 electors must be submitted to the Attorney General with the full text and summary of the proposed statute or amendment. In the case of a referendum, the AG is given the full text and summary of the law or section of a law to be referred.
- The Attorney General certifies it if, in his or her opinion, the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed statute or amendment.
- A verified copy of the statute or amendment, together with the summary and the Attorney General’s certification, must then be filed with the Secretary of State.
- Petitioners then must draw up the petition.
- It may be made up of part-petitions, but all separate petitions shall be filed at one time as one instrument. Each part-petition must have a copy of the full text of the proposed statute. The heading must be as specified in Art. II, Sec. 1b and R.C. 3519.05.
Time limits for referenda
In the case of a newly filed veto referendum, the Secretary of State is required to respond to the original filing within ten days of receiving the petition, both to verify the number of valid signatures (the signatures of the initial 1000 electors) and to compare the full text of the law or section of the law with the law on file with the AG's office. If the petition text is correct, the Secretary of State shall so certify.
Ballot title certification for referenda
Additionally, on the same day or within one business day before or after the petition is filed with the Secretary of State, a copy of the petition with the full text and summary of the law or section of the law must be filed with the Attorney General. Within ten (10) days of receiving the petition the Attorney General certifies if, in his opinion, the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the law or section of law to be referred.
Deadlines and time frames
For proposed statutes:
Petitions that propose new state statutes (laws) must be filed with the Secretary of State not less than ten (10) days prior to commencement of any session of the General Assembly. Legislative sessions begin on the first Monday in January. Filing must be accompanied by a twenty-five dollar ($25.00) filing fee. The Secretary of State transmits the proposal to the General Assembly as soon as it convenes.
For proposed amendments:
Petitions proposing initiated constitutional amendments must be filed with the Secretary of State not later than ninety (90) days prior to the general election at which the amendment is to be submitted. This deadline is in early August of each year. In 2008, the exact day is Wednesday, August 6.
For veto referenda
- The petition must be filed with the Secretary of State within ninety (90) days after the law or section of law to be referred has been filed with the Secretary of State by the Governor. If the petition is found to be valid, the law or section of law will not go into effect unless it is approved by a majority of the voters at the first regular or general election which occurs more than sixty (60) days after the petition is filed. Petition must be accompanied by filing fee of twenty-five dollars ($25).
Signature certification process
Those who sign the petition must be "qualified electors" of Ohio. The petition and signatures on such petition shall be presumed to be in all respects sufficient.
10 days for more signatures
However, if it is established that the signatures that were initially submitted were not sufficient, the sponsors are notified and have ten (10) additional days to collect and file additional signatures to try to make up the shortfall.
Mixing counties on petitions: Don't
Each part-petition must contain signatures of electors of only one county. If a part-petition contains signatures of more than one county, the Secretary of State determines the county from which the majority of signatures came from, and only signatures from that county will be counted.
Signatures are tied to the last gubernatorial election. For constitutional amendments, the total number of signatures must equal at least ten percent (10%) of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. For statutes, the total number of signatures on the petition must equal at least three percent (3%) of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. A referendum requires six percent (6%) of those votes cast. The Secretary of State may not accept for filing any initiative petition that does not purport to contain at least the minimum number of signatures required.
- If the General Assembly adopts the law then no additional signatures are needed.
Supplemental signatures for statutes only
If the General Assembly fails to:
- Enact a proposed statute,
- Passes it in amended form, or,
- Takes no action within four (4) months from the time it was received by the General Assembly,
- Then, supplemental petitions may be circulated by the petitioners demanding that the proposal be submitted to the electors at the next general election.
The supplemental petition must contain signatures of electors equal to three percent (3%) of the most recent vote for governor. Such petitions must be signed and filed with the Secretary of State within ninety (90) days after the General Assembly fails to enact the proposed statute, passes it in amended form, or takes no action within four (4) months from the time it was received by the General Assembly. The petition may present the proposed law as worded on the original petition or with any amendments incorporated by the General Assembly.
Distribution of signatures
Ohio has a distribution requirement such that the signatures for both amendments, statutes and veto referenda must be obtained from at least 44 of the 88 counties of the state.
- For proposed state statutes, from each of these 44 counties, there must be signatures equal to at least one and five-tenths percent (1.5%) of the total vote cast for the office of governor in that county at the last gubernatorial election.
- For proposed constitutional amendments, from each of the 44 counties, there must be signatures equal to at least five percent (5%) of the total vote cast for the office of governor in that county at the last gubernatorial election.
- For proposed referenda, from each of these 44 counties, there must be signatures equal to at least three percent (3%) of the total vote cast for the office of governor in that county at the last gubernatorial election.
Withdrawal of signatures
After initiative or referenda sponsors file the petitions with the Secretary of State, those who signed a petition are not legally allowed to withdraw their signature.
Restrictions on circulators
Ohio's legislature passed in law in 2004 that forbids paying petition circulators per signature. This law was successfully challenged in Citizens for Tax Reform v. Deters, a federal lawsuit. The state of Ohio has indicated it may appeal its loss in this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the circulator is being compensated for supervising, managing or otherwise organizing any effort to obtain signatures, that circulator must file "Form 15" with the Secretary of State prior to circulating the petition.
Moore v. Brunner
On June 2, 2008, in the case of Moore v. Brunner, a federal judge agreed with third party presidential candidate Brian Moore's legal claim that Ohio's rule about non-resident circulators is unconstitutional. The judge issued a restraining order enjoining the Ohio Secretary of State from enforcing the law.
Ballot initiatives in Ohio must honor the single-subject rule.
Subjects ineligible for referenda
Some laws passed by the Ohio legislature are exempt from referenda. The laws that are exempt are from the referendum are:
- Emergency laws necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health or safety;
- Tax levies, and
- Appropriations for current expenses for state government and state institutions.
- Laws governing the initiative process in Ohio
- Ohio signature requirements
- List of Ohio ballot measures
- Ohio Initiative and Referendum Court Decisions
- Procedures for initiated statutes, referenda and constitutional amendments from the Ohio Secretary of State
- Ohio Constitution and Statutory Provisions
- Website of the Ohio Secretary of State
- Website of the Ohio Attorney General
- Website of the Ohio Elections Commission