Elections board verifying SB5 petitions

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A week ago, the county’s board of elections received 235 petitions seeking to put a referendum eliminating the controversial Senate Bill 5 on the general election ballot.

By Monday, staff at the board office must determined if the 5,363 signatures on those petitions are valid or not. Those petitions were circulated in the county and signed by those claiming to be Lawrence County registered voters. It is now up to the elections board to validate each signature.

“We are more than 50 percent done,” Cathy Overbeck, elections board director, said.

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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. The law affects teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, corrections and other government workers.

However, almost immediately after its passage, a grass-roots effort to bring about a referendum on SB5 began, bringing in more than a million signatures seeking a statewide vote on the law in November.

All petitions gathered across the state were turned in last month to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. That office, in turn, returned them to the appropriate county elections board for employees to check petition signatures against voter registration cards.

Those petitions must be verified by Monday.

“Absolutely, we will meet our deadline,” Overbeck said.

Petitions are checked to determine if the handwritten signatures match and if the addresses on file are the same as the addresses on the petition. Overbeck said at this time she was unable to give a percentage of signatures that were not valid, but did say her office has found some.

Only 231,148 valid signatures of currently registered voters are required to put SB5 on the ballot. That is six percent of the total number of those who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election. On top of that, petitions from 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.

If the requisite number of signatures statewide is verified, the next step is for the Columbus-based ballot board to work on the language for the ballot.