Congratulations to Dani Kington for their excellent reporting about Issue 1 on the August 8th ballot. They caught what major Ohio newspapers and attorneys in the Ohio Supreme Court ballot language case missed about the 5% petition signature requirement for future constitutional amendments petitions.
The currently proposed amendment states in part, ”except that upon an initiative petition proposing an amendment to the constitution, it shall be necessary to file from each county of the state petitions bearing the signatures of not less than five per cent of the electors of the county.”
That exception clause does not refer to any “designated percentage” or otherwise incorporate the words “of the total number of votes cast for the office of governor.” It clearly and unambiguously sets its own metric: “five per cent of the electors of the county.”
I am truly astounded that so many people are repeating the error, assuming that the clear language “five percent of the electors of the county” does not mean what it says.
When I told some folks fighting against Issue 1 about the problem, they cited R.C. 3519.22, as if a statute can change the clear language of a constitutional amendment. <<face palm>><<eye roll>>
Two days after I submitted the above paragraphs of this letter to the Athens County Independent, the four Republican Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the clear language “five per cent of the electors of the county” does not mean what it says. As an attorney who has also spent years as a middle school grammar teacher, I am saddened by their decision.
Thank goodness Justice Brunner, in her opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, understood the clear language. She wrote in paragraph 38:
“The number of signatures needed, which would be required from each of the 88 counties under the proposed amendment, would increase, since the number of signatures required in each county changes from 5 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, see Ohio Constitution, Article II, Section 1a, 1g, to simply 5 percent of all electors in the county, S.J.R. 2, at Article II, Section 1g(E). This change is significant because the new requirement increases the pool of electors to include those who did not vote in the last gubernatorial election from which to compute the required 5 percent to qualify for the ballot.”
If Issue 1 passes, there’s a danger that the misinterpretations will continue. There’s also a danger that people in power will change their interpretations when “convenient.”
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Wenda Sheard, she/her, JD, PhD (political science)
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