Supreme Court declines to change Ohio ballot initiatives policy
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[June 26, 2020]
By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme
Court on Thursday declined to direct Ohio to accept electronic
signatures from residents seeking to place voter initiatives on the
ballot rather than signing petitions in pen due to the coronavirus
The justices in a brief order opted not to reinstate a federal judge's
May 19 ruling that had allowed organizers of proposed ballot measures,
including one to raise the state's minimum wage, to use electronic
signatures and extended their deadline for collecting them. In order for
a ballot initiative to be put up for a vote, organizers must secure a
certain number of signatures of registered voters.
The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put the
judge's ruling on hold, siding with state officials. Activists in favor
of decriminalizing marijuana then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
Under Ohio law, organizers of ballot measures must collect signatures in
"wet" ink from registered voters in-person. Individuals and
organizations seeking to put issues directly before the voters sued Ohio
Governor Mike DeWine in April, saying his stay-at-home order intended to
slow the spread of the coronavirus made meeting those requirements
The activists did not challenge the legality of DeWine's stay-at-home
order. Instead, they sought the relaxation of signature-gathering rules,
saying their free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution's First
Amendment were being violated.
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A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington,
U.S. May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
A federal judge in Columbus ruled in their favor, saying the ballot
initiative organizers "have no hope of collecting the required
number of signatures from the required geographic distribution"
before a July deadline.
The 6th Circuit put that decision on hold, however, finding that the
ballot rules should be enforced even during the pandemic. The
appeals court said there were creative ways for activists to collect
signatures such as bringing their petitions to the homes of voters.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham)
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