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Abortion amendment appears to meet signature requirements in central Ohio counties

Boxes of signatures are delivered to Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office in downtown Columbus, Ohio.
Patrick Orsagos
Boxes of signatures are delivered to Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office in downtown Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday, July 5, 2023. Advocates of enshrining abortion rights in Ohio's constitution delivered nearly double the number of signatures needed to place an amendment on fall statewide ballots.

County boards of elections around Ohio on Thursday certified the number of valid signatures on petitions for two big state issues trying to make their way to the November ballot. In seven central Ohio counties, the effort to enshrine abortion rights meets its goal locally, while a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana falls a little short.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the group behind the effort to ensrhine reproduction rights in the state constitution, submitted 710,131 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. To meet the needed 413,446 to make the ballot, about 59% must be valid.

County boards of elections check to make sure petition signers are registered voters and the address they provided matches where they are registered to vote, as well as other details.

In Central Ohio, Franklin, Delaware, Licking, Fairfield, Pickaway, Madison and Union counties together account for 110,902 of the signatures submitted. Of those, 75,991 are valid, or about 68.5% – meaning central Ohio will more than carry its weight in the statewide effort.

Of the seven, Madison County had the highest rate of validity for its signatures at almost 79%, or 1,215 of 1,542 signatures.

Franklin County had the lowest validity rate, 66%, but by far had the most signatures submitted. Almost 53,700 of the 80,755 signatures submitted were valid.

The other counties each recorded between 1,400 and 8,700 valid signatures.

If approved by voters, the measure would guarantee a right in the state constitution to contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and abortion and prevent the state from penalizing people from exercising these rights.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s effort to legalize recreational cannabis is cutting it a bit closer. The proposal for the voter-approved law needs 56% of the 222,198 signatures submitted to be valid to make the cut reach the needed number of 124,046.

Central Ohio petitions produced a valid signature rate of just 53.9%. In total, the seven counties logged 59,583 signatures – but only 32,143 were valid.

Franklin County accounted for 26,090 of the valid signatures.

In northeastern Ohio, Cleveland.com reported similar trends in six counties.

In Medina, Lorain, Marijuana, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Summit and Lake counties, elections officials validated 158,308 signatures, or about 68% of those on abortion rights petition.

The same counties produced 30,627 valid signatures for the legalization of marijuana – about 52% of the total collected there, the news outlets reported.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Hamilton County verified 52,346 valid signatures, or about 70% of those submitted – suggesting that the abortion measure will clear the bar to get on the ballot.

In addition to meeting the main quotas for signatures, petitions for both issues must also meet minimum valid signature requirements in at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose is set to announce whether the issues have enough signatures to make the ballot on Tuesday. If either proposal fails to meet statewide requirements, backers will have 10 days to collect and file more signatures.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.