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Next step for Senate Bill 5 petitions

Published 10:14am Thursday, June 30, 2011

Election boards to verify signatures

Now comes the eye strain as boards of elections in all 88 counties will spend the next month checking out each of at least 1.2 million signatures collected in an intense grass-roots push to save collective bargaining in the state.

Today is the deadline for the petitions gathered to put Senate Bill 5 to a referendum vote on the November ballot.

Known colloquially as SB5, the bill, signed into law on March 31 by Gov. John Kasich, limits the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 Ohio public employees.

It stops unions from negotiating wages, instituting automatic raises and calling strikes. Also workers would have to pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance.

The bill affects teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, corrections officers and many government workers.

According to Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, the union-sponsored “We Are Ohio” campaign collected 1,298,301 signature, almost six times the number needed to bring the issue to a vote.

“This unprecedented number is a record for any Ohio ballot initiative and shows that Ohioans are fed up with Gov. Kasich’s extreme partisan agenda,” Burga said in a press release.

All that is needed is for 231,149 of those to be deemed the valid signatures of registered voters by the boards of elections. That is six percent of the total number of those who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election. On top of that 44 of the state’s counties must have three percent of the signatures of those who voted in that election. Lawrence County’s number is 532.

“The next step the signatures have to be verified,” Matt McClellan, spokesperson for the Ohio Secretary of State, said. “The secretary’s office receives the petitions and we will take an inventory of them. Then we send them out to the proper county boards of election. They have the signatures on file.”

In Lawrence County each registration card is scanned into the board’s computer system showing a visual copy of the voter’s signature.

“It could take some time,” Eric Bradshaw, deputy director of the Lawrence County board of elections, said. “We only have four computers and you have to check signatures according to registration.”

That job has to be done no later than July 26, or 105 days prior to the election. As elections boards verify signatures, they will send the petitions back to the secretary of state. If the requisite amount of signatures are verified, then the ballot board will work on the language of the issue on the ballot.

Union representatives are anticipating a fight in the fall as the pros and antis on the bill line up.

“We are preparing for all of this outside money to come in,” Cherice Keyser, coordinator for the Shawnee Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said. “This is something being looked at on a national basis. The groups who are for SB5 are going to be pouring a lot of money into the state. The ways the campaign finance laws have been revised we are not going to actually know where that money is coming from.”

Keyser said the union’s strategy is to campaign door to door and by phone.

“We will have to be a little bit more cautious with our money,” she said.

An email sent to Kasich’s press office and a phone call to Sen. Shannon Jones, a sponsor of SB5, were not returned by press time.

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