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As Ohio Stays Home, Minimum Wage Ballot Organizers Sue To Extend Signature Deadline

voting booths
John Minchillo
Associated Press

Organizers trying to put a minimum wage measure on November’s statewide ballot are hoping a Franklin County judge will grant an extension on the July 1 deadline for gathering signatures, amid a statewide stay-at-home order.

Organizers of the "Raise The Wage" amendmentare asking for three things: more time to collect signatures, the ability for voters to sign petitions online, and fewer total signatures to make the November ballot.

The proposed amendment would increase the minimum wage every year to eventually reach $13 an hour by 2025. In February, the group won approval from the Ohio Ballot Board to begin collecting nearly 443,000 valid signatures by July.

Spokesman James Hayes says their case was filed March 30 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“It might be a long shot that the court will side with us, but we thought it was a shot worth taking,” Hayes says. “And we think that this would be a good decision, a worthwhile decision, in line with protecting the First Amendment rights of Ohioans across the state.”

Hayes notes collecting signatures from voters casting ballots during the March 17 primary was a significant part of their strategy.

"The primary election day was going to be a prime spot to collect, or prime opportunity to collect, signatures all over the state of those 442,000 plus valid signatures that we need," Hayes says.

Now, that election is running through the mail,to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The court handling the case is the same one that rejected a last-minute bid backed by the governor to delay the primary election until June. 

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.