Ohioans for Secure and Fair Election (OSFE) announced Thursday that it was suspending its ballot initiative campaign trying to make major changes to Ohio’s election laws.
“While this is certainly not the outcome we hoped, planned, organized, fundraised, or campaigned for, we come to this decision with pride in our work, appreciation for our coalition partners, and a clear vision for the future,” said Toni Webb, the campaign manager for OFSE.
Webb said the coronavirus pandemic hit right at the beginning of “Ohio’s precious signature-gathering months” which made it difficult to get the required number of signatures to get an initiative on the ballot.
“We will continue the fight to modernize our voting and registration laws with popular, common sense updates that make our elections more secure and accessible so all eligible Ohioans have their voices heard and their vote protected,” she added.
For an initiative to appear on November’s ballot, it needs to have obtained 442,958 voter signatures by July 1 after being approved by the Ohio Ballot Board.
Some proposals OFSE tried to get on the ballot included same-day voting registration, automatic voter registration when people renew, update or replace their licenses at Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices, establish early voting periods before election day, and provide equal access throughout the voting process for people with disabilities.
OFSE endured many legal battles trying to get these initiatives authorized and approved for signature gathering. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in April that these initial proposals be present as a single issue rather than four issues.
Despite this ruling, OFSE had a hard time collecting signatures as the coronavirus hit in mid-March, which caused the state to go into lockdown for an extended period of time.
In May, a federal judge said petitioners seeking electronic signatures needed to stop because of security concerns.
“It may well be that the new methods for gathering signatures and verifying them proposed by Plaintiffs (using electronic signatures gathered online by third parties and identified by social security number) will prove workable,” the decision said. “But they may also pose serious security concerns and other, as yet unrealized, problems. So the decision to drastically alter Ohio’s election procedures must rest with the Ohio Secretary of State and other elected officials, not the courts.”
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Zachery Schmidt is the digital editor of Star News Digital Media. If you have any tips, email Zachery at [email protected] Follow Zachery on Twitter @zacheryschmidt2.