Laws governing the initiative process in Ohio

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Contents
1 Laws and procedures
1.1 Crafting an initiative
1.1.1 Single-subject rule
1.1.2 Subject restrictions
1.1.3 Competing initiatives
1.2 Starting a petition
1.2.1 Applying to petition
1.2.2 Proposal review/approval
1.2.3 Fiscal review
1.3 Collecting signatures
1.3.1 Number required
1.3.2 Distribution requirements
1.3.3 Restrictions on circulators
1.3.4 Electronic signatures
1.3.5 Deadlines for collection
1.4 Getting on the ballot
1.4.1 Signature verification
1.4.2 Ballot title and summary
1.5 The election and beyond
1.5.1 Supermajority requirements
1.5.2 Effective date
1.5.3 Litigation
1.5.4 Legislative tampering
1.5.5 Re-attempting an initiative
1.6 Funding an initiative campaign
1.7 State initiative law
2 Changes in the law

Citizens of Ohio may initiate statutes through the process of indirect initiative and constitutional amendments through the process of direct initiative. Once sufficient signatures have been collected, statutory initiatives are first presented to the Ohio General Assembly. If approved by the legislature unamended, the proposed statute becomes law. If not, petitioners must collect an additional round of signatures within ninety days in order to place the statute on the ballot. Proposed amendments proceed directly to a vote of the people. The General Assembly may also propose amendments to the people as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments.

Crafting an initiative

Of the 24 states that allow citizens to initiate legislation through the petition process, several states have adopted restrictions and regulations that limit the scope and content of proposed initiatives. These regulations may include laws that mandate that initiatives address only one topic, restrict the range of acceptable topics for proposed laws, prohibit unfunded mandates, and establish guidelines for adjudicating contradictory measures.

Single-subject rule

See also: Single-subject rule

In Ohio, each proposed measure must address only one subject. Such laws are also known as single-subject rules. The Ohio Revised Code further clarifies this requirement by stating:

"Only one proposal of law or constitutional amendment to be proposed by initiative petition shall be contained in an initiative petition to enable the voters to vote on that proposal separately."

If a measure is found to propose more than one statute or amendment, the board may divide the measure into separate ballot questions.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.01(A)

Subject restrictions

See also: Subject restrictions (ballot measures)

In Ohio, an initiated measure may not authorize "any classification of property for the purpose of levying different rates of taxation" or "any single tax on land or land values or land sites at a higher rate or by a different rule than is or may be applied to improvements thereon or to personal property."

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1e

Competing initiatives

See also: Superseding initiative; "Poison pills"; List of Ohio ballot measures

Ohio law provides that in the event that conflicting measures are approved, the measure with the most affirmative votes takes effect. The other measure does not become law. For example, in 2006, two ballot measures included competing restrictions on smoking. However, only one ultimately passed.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1b

Starting a petition

Each initiative and referendum state employs a different procedure for filing petition applications. Some states require preliminary signatures while others do not. In addition, several states review each proposed statute, verifying that the law conforms to the style and conventions of state law and recommending alterations to initiative proponents. Some of these of these states also review the law for more substantive considerations of content and consistency. Also, many states conduct a review of the ballot title and summary, and several states employ a fiscal review process which analyzes proposed laws to determine their impact on state finances.[1][2][3]

Applying to petition

See also: Approved for circulation

Ohio is one of several states that require a certain number of signatures to accompany the initial petition filing. The signatures of at least 1,000 qualified electors are required. Along with signatures, proponents must file a copy of the proposed measure and a summary of that measure with the Ohio Attorney General. They must also designate a committee of three to five people to represent the petitioners.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.01(A) & Chapter 3519.02

Proposal review/approval

See also: Approved for circulation

The proposed measure and summary are first reviewed by the Attorney General. If the Attorney General finds that the summary is fair and accurate, then he or she forwards the measure to the Ohio Ballot Board. The board reviews the measure to ensure that it conforms to Ohio's single-subject rule. If the measure is found to propose more than one statute or amendment, the board may divide the measure into separate ballot questions. Petitioners must then submit new summaries for each of measures. These summaries are also subject to the Attorney General's approval. Once a proposal is approved, it is transferred to the Secretary of State.

  • An example of an Attorney General-approved initial petition can be found here.
  • The measure's corresponding Ballot Board approval can be found here.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.01(A) & Chapter 3505.062(A)

Fiscal review

See also: Fiscal impact statement

After the Secretary of State receives the approved proposal, he or she transfers the measure to the Office of Budget and Management (and/or Tax Commissioner if the measure involves a tax). The office (and/or commissioner) then estimates the fiscal impact of the measure. This estimate (or joint estimate) is ultimately posted on the Secretary of State's website 30 days prior to the election.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.04

Collecting signatures

Each initiative and referendum state employs a unique method of calculating the state's signature requirements. Some states mandate a certain fraction of registered voters while others base their calculation on those who actually voted in a preceding election. In addition, many states employ a distribution requirement, dictating where in the state these signatures must be collected. Beyond these overarching requirements, many states regulate the manner in which signatures may be collected and the timeline for collecting them.

Number required

See also: Ohio signature requirements

For constitutional amendments, petitioners must submit signatures equal to 10% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election.

For statutes, signatures equaling 3% of these votes must be submitted in order to place the proposal before the Ohio State Legislature. If the legislature fails to enact the proposed legislation, additional signatures equaling 3% of the last gubernatorial vote must be collected in order to place the measure the ballot. Put simply, if initiative sponsors believe that the legislature will not enact their proposed law, they should plan to collect signatures equaling 6% of the last gubernatorial vote.

Veto referendums also require 6%. In addition, every type of measure requires 1000 preliminary signatures with the initial filing.

Year Initial signatures Initiated amendment Initiated statute Round 1 Initiated statute Round 2 Veto referendum
2014 1,000 385,247 115,574 115,574 231,149
2012 1,000 385,247 115,574 115,574 231,149
2010 1,000 402,275 120,683 120,683 241,365
2008 1,000 402,275 120,683 120,683 241,365

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article 2, Sections 1a -1c

Distribution requirements

See also: Distribution requirements

For all measures, signatures must be gathered from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties. Petitioners must gather signatures equal to half the required percentage of the gubernatorial vote in each of the 44 counties: 5% for amendments, 1.5% for statutes, and 3% for referendums.

This requirement also applies to the second round of signatures needed to place a statute on the ballot once it has been rejected by the General Assembly.

A person who signs a petition must live in the precinct in which the candidacy or ballot issue will appear in an election.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1g

Restrictions on circulators

Circulator requirements

See also: Petition circulator

In Ohio, circulators are permitted to sign the petition that they are circulating.[4] Circulators must be at least 18 years of age. He or she must also be a registered voter and reside in a precinct in which the issue that is the subject of the petition will appear on the ballot. Each initiative petition contains a mandatory circulator affidavit. According to Ohio Revised Code 3501.38 and 3519.05, a circulator is not required to sign these affidavits before a public notary, however he/she must swear to and sign a statement, under the penalty of law, that he/she personally witnessed every act of signing the petition.[5][6]

Once circulation is completed, the signatures are submitted to the secretary of state grouped by county of signature origin. The secretary of state will then distribute the petitions to the county board of elections for verification in accordance with Ohio Revised Codes 3501.38(K), 3519.10 and 3519.15.[5][6]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3501.38, Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519 & Senate Bill 47

Pay-per-signature

See also: Pay-per-signature

Ohio does not ban paying circulators by the signature. Ohio used to have such a ban, but it was struck down in Citizens for Tax Reform v. Deters.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3599.111(B) & Citizens for Tax Reform v. Deters 

Out-of-state circulators

See also: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Ohio does not require that petition circulators reside in the state. Ohio used to ban out-of-state circulators, but the law was struck down in Nader v. Blackwell.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3503.06(B) & Nader v. Blackwell 

Badge requirements

See also: Badge requirements

Ohio law requires that circulators disclose their paid/volunteer status in their circulator affidavit--completed after signatures have been collected.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3501.38(E)

Electronic signatures

See also: Electronic petition signatures

Since electronic signatures are an emerging technology, the constitutionality of bans on e-signatures and the legality of e-signatures in states without bans is largely untested. In 2006, Ohio banned electronic signatures by requiring signatures to be made and filed in ink.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.051

Deadlines for collection

See also: Petition drive deadlines; Circulation period

Ohio law does not limit how long a petition may be circulated. Signatures for an initiated statute must be filed at least 10 days prior to the legislative session. Supplemental signatures must be filed within 90 days of the General Assembly's rejection of the measure. Signatures for constitutional amendments must be filed 125 days prior to the general election.

A signature on a petition must be dated less than a year before the petition was filed.[7]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Sections 1a & 1b

Getting on the ballot

Once signatures have been collected, state officials must verify that requirements are met and that fraudulent signatures are excluded. States generally employ a random sample process or a full verification of signatures. After verification, the issue must be prepared for the ballot. This often involves preparing a fiscal review and ballot summary.

Submitting signatures

When a petition is submitted, an eletronic 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.[7]

An initiative or referendum committee cannot collect additional signatures for a petition after it has been submitted, except for in a ten day window beginning after the Secretary of State notifies the committee that petition, as submitted, was insufficient and provides the required official form for additional signature collection, which must be used when collecting supplemental signatures in the ten day windowed allowed.[7]

A petition that has been rejected cannot be resubmitted.[7]

Signature verification

See also: Signature certification

In Ohio, signatures are presumed valid unless duplicate signatures or defects in the petition are evident. Signatures may also be ruled invalid if satisfactory evidence can be provided. See "Litigation" below for more details.[8]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1g & Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.06

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 must determine the sufficiency of the signature petition at least 105 days before the election.[7]

Ballot title and summary

See also: Ballot title

In addition to a generic title (Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3...), each Ohio ballot measure also receives a descriptive title, a summary of the measure (approved prior to circulation), arguments for/against, and statements explaining a yes/no vote. However, not all of these appear on the ballot--the arguments for/against and the full text are published in newspapers and made available online. The arguments for/against are typically prepared by the proponents and a group of opponents selected by the General Assembly. If these group do not prepare an argument, the duty falls to the Ohio Ballot Board, which also finalizes the ballot language.

  • An example of final ballot language can be found here.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1g ; Ohio Constitution, Article XVI, Section 1 & Ohio Revised Code, Title XXXV, Chapter 3519.03

The election and beyond

Ballot measures face additional challenges beyond qualifying for the ballot and receiving a majority of the vote. Several states require ballot measures to get more than a simple majority. While some states mandate a 3/5 supermajority, others states set the margin differently. In addition, ballot measures may face legal challenge or modification by legislators. If a ballot measure does fail, some states limit how soon that initiative can be re-attempted.

Supermajority requirements

See also: Supermajority requirements

In Ohio, each ballot measure requires a simple majority of the votes cast for/against it.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1b

Effective date

Ballot measures take effect 30 days after the election at which they are approved.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1b

Litigation

See also: Ballot measure lawsuit news

Challenges to any aspect of the initiative process should be filed in the Ohio Supreme Court. No challenge may be brought against an initiated measure less than 95 days before the election. An exception is made for challenges concerning signatures gathered in the 10-day period for submitting additional signatures. Any such challenge must be filed at least 55 days before the election. No challenge to the petition language or petition signatures may invalidate a measure once it has been approved by voters. The same protection applies to the ballot language prepared by the Ballot Board for legislatively-referred constitutional amendments.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1g & Ohio Constitution, Article XVI, Section 1

Legislative tampering

See also: Legislative tampering

The Ohio General Assembly may repeal or amend an initiated statute by a simple majority vote. Changes to initiated amendments must follow the ordinary legislative process (a three-fifths vote of both chambers).[9]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1g & Ohio Constitution, Article XVI, Section 1

Re-attempting an initiative

Ohio does not limit how soon an initiative can be re-attempted.[10]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1g & Ohio Constitution, Article XVI, Section 1

Funding an initiative campaign

See also: Campaign finance requirements for Ohio ballot measures

Some of the notable features of Ohio's campaign finance laws include:

  • Ohio treats ballot issue groups differently than other political action committees.
  • Ohio requires that a campaign treasurer is in place before any contributions can be received or money spent.
  • Ohio requires separate registration if a campaign plans to provide petition circulators.
  • Ohio requires all campaign finance records be retained for six years.
  • Ohio bans government employees from soliciting for contributions for or against a ballot issue.

State initiative law

Article XVI of the Ohio Constitution addresses initiatives.

Chapter 3519 of Title XXXV of the Ohio Revised Code governs initiatives.

External links

References


Ballot law
BallotLaw final.png
State laws
Initiative law
Recall law
Statutory changes
Court cases
Lawsuit news
Ballot access rulings
Recent court cases
Petitioner access
Ballot title challenges
Superseding initiatives
Signature challenges
Laws governing
local ballot measures
Contents
1 Laws and procedures
2 Changes in the law
2.1 Proposed changes by year
2.1.1 2012
2.1.2 2011
2.1.3 2010

The following laws have been proposed which modify ballot measure law in Ohio.

Proposed changes by year

2014

See also: Changes in 2014 to laws governing ballot measures


The following bills were introduced in the Ohio State Legislature:

  1. Simple icon time.svg HB 118: Revises language regarding bond issues.
  2. Simple icon time.svg HB 157: Establishes a procedure to recall an elective township officer.


2013

Ohio Senate Bill 47, making widespread elections code changes was approved in 2013.

See also: Changes in 2013 to laws governing ballot measures


The following bills were introduced in the Ohio State Legislature:

Right-facing-Arrow-icon.jpg HB 118: Revises language regarding bond issues.

Right-facing-Arrow-icon.jpg HB 157: Establishes a procedure to recall an elective township officer.

Approveda SB 47: Makes sweeping election law revisions.


2012

See also: Changes in 2012 to laws governing ballot measures


No bills were introduced in the Ohio State Legislature in 2012.

2011

See also: Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures


The following bills were introduced in the Ohio General Assembly:

Approveda Ohio House Bill 194: HB 194 is an extensive election overhaul bill. For a detailed summary of its provisions, see the official bill analysis. HB 194 has also been targeted for a veto referendum. See also: Ohio Election Law Veto Referendum (2012)

Right-facing-Arrow-icon.jpg Ohio House Bill 203: Excerpt from bill description/summary: "To enact new section 3.11 of the Revised Code to establish a process for recalling statewide elected officials and members of the General Assembly."

Right-facing-Arrow-icon.jpg Ohio House Bill 343:

Right-facing-Arrow-icon.jpg Ohio Senate Bill 148: SB 148 is an extensive election overhaul bill. For a detailed summary of its provisions, see the official bill analysis.

Approveda HCR 24

Right-facing-Arrow-icon.jpg SJR 3

2010

See also: Changes in 2010 to laws governing the initiative process

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Ohio General Assembly:


The following bills were introduced in the Ohio General Assembly:

Defeatedd HJR 13: An amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would require a two-thirds super-majority vote in order to approve a statewide ballot measure. The amendment has not been heard in any committee or is considered for a floor vote[1].

Defeatedd HB 377: A bill that would change requirements for petition circulators in Ohio. Provisions of the bill include all circulators to register with the Secretary of State, prohibits anyone who has been convicted of fraud or identity theft from circulating petitions, licensing organizations that provide paid petition circulators, and require mandatory training on initiative laws before circulating petitions. The bill was approved by the Ohio House of Representatives on March 24, 2010 by a 54-45 vote and is awaiting action in the Senate[2].

Defeatedd HB 260: An elections reform bill that changes requirements involving voter registration, provisional ballots, election observers, voter challenges, and other political entities. The bill was approved by the Ohio House of Representatives on November 18, 2009 by a 52-46 vote and is awaiting action in the Senate[3].