Petitioners ask for extension to gather signatures

Larry Limpf

Supporters of a referendum effort to repeal sections of House Bill 6 that was passed this summer by the state legislature are asking for an extension to gather signatures for petitions.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts filed arguments Wednesday in U.S. District Court challenging what is called the “blackout period” mandated by state law that prohibits ballot committees from collecting signatures until the state attorney general and secretary of state approve the referendum summary language.
The group seeks to block the enactment of HB 6, which has drawn criticism from a coalition of environmentalists, industry associations and others who see it as little more than a bailout of coal and nuclear power plants in the state. Ohioans Against Corporate Ballots contends the bill also guts renewable energy standards
The group is arguing that the verification process for the referendum consumed 38 of the 90 days it has to collect the 265,744 signatures required to place it on the 2020 ballot. The group faces an Oct. 21 deadline to collect the signatures.
In the suit, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts is asking the court to extend the deadline, arguing the 90-day petitioning window shouldn't begin until after the "blackout period" is complete.
"The 'blackout period' represents an unconstitutional barrier to Ohioans seeking to exercise their right to referendum," said campaign spokesman Gene Pierce. "We believe the Ohio Constitution guarantees us a full 90 days for petitioning activities, and that the summary language requirement violates our First Amendment rights. We are asking the court to remedy this by allowing us a full 90 days to circulate petitions.”
He said supporters of HB 6 have employed hundreds of “blockers” to stop voters from signing, started a phony petition drive to confuse Ohioans, bribed countless circulators to walk off the job and run tens of millions of dollars in advertisements with phony claims and lies.


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