Yost tells petition blockers to ‘knock it off’

Staff Writer

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost issued a warning last week that his office will not tolerate harassment and intimidation in the state’s petition process.
The warning follows reports that signature gatherers for the proposed House Bill 6 referendum have encountered aggressive “petition blockers” who attempt to deter voters from signing petitions, Yost’s office said.
“Two different petitions are circulating statewide and their supporters have a right under law to collect signatures without interference,” Yost said. “My job as attorney general is to call balls and strikes like I see them and this one is a wild pitch. It’s time to knock it off.”
Yost said signature gatherers should report incidents of harassment and intimidation to his office by calling 1-800-282-0515.
Under state law, the attorney general’s office has the authority to investigate criminal elections violations in the petition process and refer evidence to county prosecutors for possible charges. If a county prosecutor declines to press charges, the attorney general’s office may do so.
In one recent case, a woman hired as a petition blocker allegedly broke a man’s cell phone as he was collecting signatures outside a central Ohio library. Dublin, O. police charged the woman with criminal damaging.
Yost also sent a letter to Ohio’s U.S. attorneys today informing them his office is gathering evidence of possible violations. Any cases that could constitute a federal offense will be referred to their offices.

Intimidation noted
A coalition of consumer, business and environmental groups, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, has been collecting petition signatures to place a referendum on HB 6 on the November 2020 ballot.
The group’s spokesman, Gene Pierce, issued the following statement:
“As Ohio's highest law enforcement officer, our petition drive welcomes the attorney general's call for House Bill 6 supporters to tone down their actions and step back from their harassment and intimidation tactics against our petition collection teams.
“The employers of pro-House Bill 6 "blockers" have a history of skirting the law and Attorney General Yost is right to resist their attempt to drag Ohio down into an increasingly violent campaign. Acts of intimidation that don't make police reports have also been happening regularly. House Bill 6 supporters have followed our petition carriers home in the evenings, have taken photos of their car license plates and have conducted face to face verbal harassment.”
OACB needs to file 265,744 signatures by Oct. 21 to make the November 2020 statewide ballot.


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