Ohio governor signs bill capping voter petition drives
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has signed a bill that would impose new restrictions that could cut more than two weeks from voter repeal drives against state law.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported on Monday that SB 47 would require groups petitioning for the repeal of a state law to a 100-day limit for collecting signatures. Kasich signed the bill on March 22.
Opponents of SB 47 now have 90 days to collect signatures if they want to mount a petition drive against the bill, as per current state law. They are also eligible for a 10-day extension if they fall short of state requirements. But SB 47 would eliminate petitioners’ ability to continue gathering signatures during the evaluation process. The newspaper reported that recent history shows the evaluation period can last between 16 and 58 days.
Civic organizations like the state branch of the Fair Elections Network, the League of Women Voters of Ohio and We Are Ohio have also criticized SB 47, though none have decided if they will mount petitions to stop it from becoming law.
“There are no definitive plans, but there are a lot of groups that are paying very close attention to it,” said We Are Ohio spokesperson Dennis Willard said.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Seitz (R), said SB 47 would prevent future Ohio secretaries of state from aiding or hampering petitions based on their ideological positions. The bill was passed by both the state Senate and House on March 20 in a vote that broke down along party lines, with Democrats opposing it.
“The right of the people to petition their government is one of our most sacred rights,” state Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) told the Plain-Dealer. “The right to referendum is a very important check that people have to push back on abuses of this legislature. This bill is a direct attack on that sacred right. To call this bill a solution in search of a problem is being charitable.”