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Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2014

Big issues don’t make Ohio’s Nov. ballot

Filing deadline passed at midnight

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Despite the hype that the 2014 general election could mark defining moments on such watershed issues as medical marijuana, gay marriage, and union fees, the deadline to put questions on Ohio’s November ballot passed Wednesday night with nary a whimper.

Supporters of ballot initiatives had until midnight to file petitions for proposed constitutional amendments and state laws to be certified for the Nov. 4 ballot. None had been filed by the end of business hours on Wednesday, and none had arrangements to file late.

A lack of momentum and in some cases a change of strategy prompted backers to set their sights on the quieter 2015 election or the din of the 2016 presidential election.

None of several proposals to legalize marijuana for medical or industrial purposes has managed to collect the minimum 385,000 or so valid signatures of registered voters needed for a constitutional amendment.

“We have representatives who have worked in every county in the state collecting well over 100,000 signatures in support of the ballot initiative and met the minimum signature requirements in 75 percent of the required 44 counties needed for ballot placement,” reads a statement issued by John Pardee, president of the Ohio Rights Group behind one of the marijuana proposals.

“Although all of the achievements cited are unprecedented in our state, we are not at the point we would need to be at to put this issue before the people of Ohio in this election year,” he said.

On Tuesday, an effort led by African-American churches to permanently etch a Voters Bill of Rights into the Ohio Constitution announced it had less than a third of the signatures needed.

An effort to make Ohio the latest right-to-work state also did not file. That proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit private and public workplace unions from requiring employees who refuse to join from being forced to pay fair-share fees in lieu of dues.

Backers of a constitutional amendment overturning the ban on same-sex marriage approved by voters a decade ago was at least temporarily shelved as federal courts gradually whittled away at the ban. They’re now looking at 2015 or 2016.

In conceding they wouldn’t make this year’s ballot, some of the organizations behind various efforts cited progress and vowed to build on that. Ballot issues, particularly proposed constitutional amendments with the highest minimum signature threshold, are time-consuming and expensive.

“It’s not an easy process, but we are talking about the constitution,” said state Rep. Alicia Reece (D., Cincinnati), a leader of the voter rights initiative. “This has been a good process, because we have now engaged a lot of folks who are taxpaying citizens who have been frustrated and want to know how they can get involved. This could be an example of a new wave where grassroots people from the bottom up can have a say.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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