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Archive for April 26th, 2018


Adding Initiative and Referendum Issues on Ohio Ballots

Flag of OhioContinuing from last Thursday’s post with information about ballot issues in Ohio, there are four methods to put an issue on the ballot: referendum, citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, legislatively-initiated constitutional amendment, and initiated statute.

A statewide referendum challenges a recently enacted law. The referendum process stops a law from becoming effective until the law itself can be submitted to voters to approve or reject at the next regular or general election. Petitioners must follow a detailed process, beginning with submitting an initial petition that includes the full text of the challenged law and signatures from 1,000 registered Ohio voters, to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. After certification by both offices, petitioners must gather more signatures and file with the Secretary of State at least 125 days prior to an election to get the challenged law on that ballot. A few matters cannot be challenged by referendum including laws providing for tax levies, appropriations for current state government and state institution expenses, and emergency laws immediately necessary for preserving public peace, health, or safety.

Constitutional amendments may appear on statewide ballots in two ways. First, a citizen-initiated amendment  may be proposed when a citizen believes that a matter is not addressed adequately by the Ohio Constitution. An initial petition, with 1,000 registered voter signatures, must be submitted to the Attorney General for certification. Then, the Ohio Ballot Board must certify that the petition contains only one constitutional amendment. After certification by both offices and filing with the Secretary of State, petitioners must gather the required number of signatures and file with the Secretary of State at least 125 days prior to a general election to get the proposed amendment on the ballot. A proposed amendment only needs approval from a majority of voters, and then becomes effective 30 days after the election. Second, a constitutional amendment may be initiated by the General Assembly by passing a joint resolution by a three-fifths vote. The resolution must be filed with the Secretary of State at least 90 days prior to the election. The joint resolution will then appear as an issue on the general election ballot, where if approved by a majority of voters, it will become a constitutional amendment.

Finally, a citizen may initiate a statute if he or she believes that a matter is not adequately addressed by the Ohio Revised Code. Petitioners must file an initial petition, signed by 1,000 registered voters, with the Attorney General. After certification by the Attorney General, and certification from the Ballot Board that the petition contains only one proposed law, the petition is filed with the Secretary of State and petitioners must gather additional signatures.  The petition must then be filed with the Secretary of State at least 10 days prior to the beginning of a General Assembly session. The General Assembly has four months to act on the proposed law, and if it does not pass the law, passes an amended version, or takes no action at all, then petitioners may file supplemental petitions demanding that the proposed law appear on the ballot at the next general election. If the proposed law is approved by a majority of voters, it becomes effective 30 days after the election.

Putting issues on the ballot, and other matters of Ohio election law, are controlled by the Ohio Constitution Art. II and Art. XVI, and by the Ohio Revised Code Title 35.