Voters will decide whether to approve another key piece of legislation passed by Republican lawmakers, this time an election reform bill that Democrats have called a “voter suppression” bill. A referendum on House Bill 194, a sweeping reform of election laws, will appear on the November 2012 ballot, Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office announced Friday.
Opponents of the bill, largely Democrats and voting rights activists, collected 307,358 valid signatures, according to the secretary of state’s office. Petitioners needed 231,150 signatures to put the law on the ballot.
The successful petition drive comes on the heels of Democrats’ victory in overturning Senate Bill 5, a controversial collective bargaining law. That law, supported by Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP legislative leaders, was overwhelmingly rejected in the November election.
Members and supporters of the Fair Elections Ohio coalition cheered the news Friday and predicted victory next November. “We will wage a robust campaign in 2012 that reflects that spirit,” former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a lead organizer of the effort, said in an emailed statement.
By hanging a referendum on HB 194, Fair Elections Ohio preserved the existing elections law through at least next year’s presidential contest. That means a 35-day window for early voting and other practices seen as advantageous to Democrats in 2008 will remain in effect.