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Proposed Ballot Initiative Change Requires Involvement From More Counties

voting booths
John Minchillo
Associated Press

A resolution seems to be gaining momentum in the Ohio House that would change the process for putting a constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot. State Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) wants to keep the total amount of signatures at the same threshold but require more of those signatures to come from more Ohio counties.

To put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a group must gather signatures that total 10% of the last gubernatorial election. Of that total, signatures must come from at least 44 counties and the amount of signatures from each of those counties must equal at least 5% of the last gubernatorial election.

Koehler's proposal would require petitioners to get signatures from 53 counties, and from each county, 10% of the last gubernatorial election.

"Anytime we're changing the constitution, we are carving something into stone. It is very hard to change. And I think it's important to let everybody have a say," Koehler says.

He notes 2018's Issue 1, "Marcy's Law," as an example. The initiative received a lot of money from wealthy, out-of-state donors, included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Koehler says his proposed change would allow Ohio citizens to have more involvement in the initiative process.

Ballot access groups say Koehler's proposal would have the opposite effect.

"The citizen initiative is not overused but if you actually make it more complicated then of course you're putting direct democracy in the hands of only the wealthy and out of the hands of citizen groups," says Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio.

Koehler's resolution is expected to be scheduled for a committee hearing in September.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.