As Ohioans are starting to gear up for the 2015 state election, the marijuana advocacy organization ResponsibleOhio is scrambling to collect enough signatures to qualify to be put on the ballot. Although the Ohio Secretary of State’s office calculated that the organization submitted approximately 660,190 signatures, more than twice the required amount, only 42 percent of those signatures were considered valid.
The organization now has until July 30 to collect 29,509 signatures. In a press release, ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James raised questions over a discrepancy between the number of signatures submitted and the total number of signatures counted by the Board of Elections.
“The total number of signatures evaluated by the Boards of Elections is significantly lower than it should be,” James said. “Every single voter who signed this petition has the right to be counted. We will be taking these shortfalls to the Ohio Supreme Court to ensure that those thousands of voices are heard.”
ResponsibleOhio plans on waiting until after the July 30 deadline to file the court challenge, hoping that the last minute signature drive will yield fruitful results.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State, called allegations of incomplete processing “nonsense.” McClellan added, “We sent out 90 boxes (to boards of election) and we got 90 boxes back. We processed everything that was submitted to us.”
The Toledo Blade reported that one possible explanation for the discrepancy between ResponsibleOhio and the Board of Election’s numbers, not to mention the massive number of invalid signatures, is the fact that the marijuana group relied heavily on paid signature gatherers.
Paid signatures gatherers are often paid by the signature, instead of the quality of each signature, which can lead to shoddy results.
The 2008 ACORN voter registration scandal is one of the more famous examples of paid signature gatherers producing poor results. ACORN employees turned in thousands of fraudulent voter registration cards, many of which had fictitious names like “Mickey Mouse.”
Even if ResponsibleOhio manages to get on the 2015 ballot, the organization still faces an uphill battle.
On June 24, 2015, the Ohio Legislature passed a measure to put a referendum on the 2015 ballot that would prohibit monopolies or business interests from writing themselves into the Ohio Constitution. Since ResponsibleOhio’s measure gives control of the state’s marijuana industry to 10 pre-approved entities, ResponsibleOhio would be affected by the measure.
Normally, under Ohio law, if two conflicting ballot measures are passed, the one with the most votes is validated. However, since ballot measures introduced by the legislature take effect immediately, ResponsibleOhio’s measure could still fail even if it gets more votes than the legislature’s anti-monopoly bill.