Opponents of Ohio’s new election overhaul were cleared Thursday to proceed with their effort to ask voters to repeal the law, which makes changes such as moving the 2012 presidential primary from March to May in the traditional presidential swing state.
Fair Elections Ohio had wanted to challenge only parts of the law — not the primary switch — but hit a snag earlier this month when Attorney General Mike DeWine ruled against wording the group planned to use to collect signatures needed to make the ballot. Based on DeWine’s ruling, organizers resubmitted their phrasing to challenge the entire bill.
DeWine gave the group his approval on Thursday, and the state’s top elections official also said Fair Elections Ohio had the 1,000 valid signatures it needed to continue with its effort. Opponents must now gather roughly 231,000 signatures by Sept. 29 to get a referendum on the 2012 ballot.
“We have people all over the state champing at the bit to get a petition to start circulating,” said Jennifer Brunner, a former Ohio secretary of state and Democrat who’s joined Fair Elections Ohio.
The new law changed the state’s presidential primary to give lawmakers additional time to redraw state legislative districts and Ohio’s congressional districts. The state is losing two U.S. House seats as a result of the 2010 census.
If opponents of the elections overhaul are successful in gathering enough signatures, the law would be suspended until voters had a chance to weigh in. That means the presidential primary would again be scheduled for March.
“We won’t know when the primary is until they gather their signatures,” Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. He said it would be too late by the end of September to have district lines drawn in time for a March primary.