As we’ve seen with SB5, in Ohio citizens can gather signatures and put anything that the legislature passes and the Governor signs to a referendum, a kind of “citizens veto.” Until the measure gets a public vote, the law is suspended rather than being enacted. So SB 5 is not yet the law of the state, awaiting the outcome of the citizens veto.
Ohioans set their sights on using this tactic with another extreme law from the legislature. A voter suppression law would shorten the successful early voting program in Ohio, prohibit the boards of election from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot requests out to voters, and allow poll workers to refuse to give information to voters about where their polling station is. These are transparent efforts to restrict voting, as the early voting program in particular is popular among low-income, urban households who may not be able to get to the polls on a Tuesday. Four in ten voters in Columbus, Ohio would have to shift their preferred voting options under this law, for example.
A coalition called Fair Elections Ohio sprouted up to challenge the law with a citizens veto. Today they announced their signature gathering effort, and they submitted over 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The threshold to reach the ballot is 231,000 signatures.
This probably means there will be a referendum in November 2012 on the voter suppression law. But more important, it means that early voting will be open for the 2012 election with full access, and the other anti-voter elements of this law won’t take effect for the next election cycle.
So at least the GOP war on voting may have been slowed down a piece in Ohio.