COLUMBUS, Ohio – Backers filed petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures to put measures on the November ballot aimed at curbing the power of elected officials in the way Ohio runs its elections.
The coalition of labor unions and Democrat-leaning activists is counting on support from voters disillusioned with a state scandal that has dogged majority Republicans for months and was sparked by the revelation of losses in investments into rare coins.
The measures would create a court-appointed board to choose congressional and legislative redistricting maps, create a state elections board and lower the limits on campaign contributions.
"We, the citizens, are supposed to drive the system, not the politicians," said Jan Fleming of Uptown Progressives, a Columbus community activist group. "Elected officials now choose the voters, rather than the other way around."
The coalition on Tuesday filed petitions with the state bearing 521,000 signatures for each of three ballot measures. To get on the November ballot, the backers need 322,000 valid signatures of registered voters.
Counties will have about two weeks to verify the signatures, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (search), Ohio's chief elections official. If supporters fall short on valid signatures they will have another 10 days to meet the goal.
Under the ballot proposal, a five-person board appointed by a judge would choose plans for legislative and congressional districts from among proposals that anyone could submit. The ability to map legislative districts is prized because lines are drawn to strengthen the majority of the ruling party.
The lines now are drawn every 10 years by the state Apportionment Board, consisting of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and a lawmaker from each party. Republicans control the board and the Legislature, which draws congressional boundaries.
Another ballot proposal would put a nine-member, bipartisan board in charge of elections, instead of the secretary of state. The third would lower the limit on individual contributions from $10,000 to $2,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for legislative candidates.
Backers got another boost Tuesday when the state Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a lawsuit that sought to keep the proposals off the ballot. The suit had argued their wording was flawed.