Standing up for Democracy: Protect the ballot process in Ohio

Posted Dec. 12, 2018 by

Democracy is at risk in Ohio, and leaders at the Ohio Statehouse are leading the charge. However, thanks to pressure by average Ohio citizens who believe in the people-driven ballot process, a measure that would make it more difficult for Ohioans to amend the state's constitution remained in limbo as of yesterday. Ohioans are encouraged to contact their leaders in the Statehouse to oppose House Joint Resolution 19.

According to the Gongwer News Service, "Mary Nordstrom, a citizen who has participated in multiple amendment signature drives, said in written testimony the changes will act to discourage future campaigns to change the constitution."

"Corporate owners and the powers that be do not want citizens to rock the boat of their well-oiled machine," said citizen Carolyn Harding, according to the article. "With the new restrictions of HJR19, the only entity that could get a constitutional amendment on the ballot would be a corporate-driven initiative with deep pockets."

Contact Statehouse leaders now and tell them Ohio citizens don't want HJR 19:

House Speaker Ryan Smith - 614-466-1366

Senate President Larry Obhof - 614-466-7505

Take Action

Urgent action is needed to prevent Ohio lawmakers from blocking citizen-led ballot initiatives. Our representatives in Columbus are fast-tracking House Joint Resolution (HJR) 19, a proposal that would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for citizens to bring issues to the ballot.

Add your name to stop this attack on direct democracy in our state. We are here to progress forward, ensuring every voice counts in Ohio.

This resolution would require citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to get an astounding 60 percent of the vote to pass. Currently Ohioans only need a simple majority. Additionally, it would limit the number of days that signatures are valid and would require volunteers to gather signatures in the winter months––when the days are short and cold.

If this resolution passes, Ohioans would lose a powerful means of making change in our state. The cost of running a statewide ballot initiative would be so high that only wealthy, out-of-state interests would be able to bring issues to the ballot––not average Ohioans, like we did with Senate Bill 5 in 2011.

OCSEA is one of nearly 100 organizations that have stood up to oppose this egregious assault on Ohio’s democracy. Will you join us? Sign the petition now>>

Ohio's citizens need and deserve access to direct democracy.

Ballot initiatives are:

  • an effective way to push legislators to act on issues of grave importance to the electorate that have otherwise been ignored;
  • a proven way to make progress on issues of concern to Ohio citizens such as redistricting reform and minimum wage.

The signature requirements were already steep and will now be much steeper. This doesn't help when voter turnout is already low.

Raising the requirements will favor groups with access to large amounts of money. We should not be doing anything to give out-of-state groups with deep pockets an unfair advantage over Ohio citizens.

New requirements in HJR19 mean only 180 days to collect signatures, between Oct 1 and April 1. Volunteers are not willing or able to collect in the fall and winter months, which means only initiatives backed and funded by big money groups hiring paid signature collectors are likely to stand a chance at getting an initiative on the ballot.

Raising the passing rate to 60 percent means more money will be required for a “yes” campaign, again giving the advantage to groups––most likely from out of state––with deep pockets. The changes mandated in HJR19 for statutory initiatives will also have a dampening effect on direct democracy.

Raising the percentage of signatures required from 3 percent to 5 percent means a much more substantial signature collection effort. The prohibition on the legislature amending/suspending the law for 12 months is not substantial enough to motivate citizens to prefer going for a statutory rather than constitutional initiative.