Ohio Chamber Signs on as “Friend of the Court” to Block Collection of Electronic Signatures for Ballot Measures

On Friday, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce joined with five other statewide business groups in filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of the State of Ohio’s appeal of a federal court ruling that would relax Ohio’s requirements for putting proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot in 2020. Ohio’s Attorney General David Yost, on behalf of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, is seeking to overturn a ruling by federal court Judge Edmund Sargus which allows for electronic signature collections instead of in-person signatures. Judge Sargus’ ruling also extended the deadline to collect such signatures from July 1, 2020 to July 31. Secretary LaRose said in response to the ruling that the existing petition requirements are “set in Ohio Constitution and decisions on changing them belong to the General Assembly and the people” and that ruling would grant the groups pushing for the ballot issue to “ignore the Ohio Constitution.”

“Judicial activism creates instability,” said Ohio Chamber President and CEO Andrew E. Doehrel. “Changing the rules of engagement and disregard components of the state’s constitution during a public health crisis diminishes public confidence when we need stability and predictability more than ever.”

Two groups are trying to get constitutional amendments on Ohio’s ballot. Ohioans for Secure & Fair Elections is seeking a constitutional amendment that would allow for same-day voter registration and the ability to cast a ballot during early voting and on Election Day. Ohioans for Raising the Wage seeks to raise Ohio’s minimum wage incrementally to $13 by 2025.

While the Ohio Chamber has not yet taken an official position on either issue, the Ohio Chamber and the broader business community have longstanding concerns about special interests increasingly seeking to bypass the deliberative legislative process and abuse of Ohio’s Constitution. In fact, the Ohio Chamber is a proponent of ballot issue reforms that would make it more difficult for such issues to be presented to voters – and the ruling in this case goes in the opposite direction. Further, it is unknown how the process of collecting signatures electronically would even work.

“The voters of Ohio and their elected representatives in the Ohio General Assembly have repeatedly made it clear that the Ohio Constitution should NOT be easy to change,” Doehrel continued. “This is why we support Attorney General Yost in overturning this ruling and appreciate the support of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.”