COLUMBUS – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today sent letters to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the committee representing the petitioners rejecting the summary language for the proposed referendum on the election reform bill, Am. Sub. H.B. 194.
The Attorney General’s Office’s explicit statutory duty is to determine whether the submitted summary “is a fair and truthful statement of the measure to be referred.”
Attorney General DeWine’s letter rejected the summary for two reasons: because it contains statements that are not accurate, and it does not fairly and truthfully describe the matter being referred.
The proposed summary language submitted contains statements that are not accurate. These statements fall into two categories: they either cite statutory or administrative code provisions that do not exist or contain misstatements of law. Some of the petitioners’ citing of administrative code that does not exist occurred in the following examples:
- In Paragraph 3 of the summary, which addresses R.C. 3517.01(B)(25), the summary reads in pertinent part: “The amendment of R.C. 3517.01 . . . supersedes and makes void and of no further effect in the Ohio Administrative Code rules that became effective January 7, 2011 (Ohio Admin. Code Section 111-13-05) . . .” However, Ohio Admin. Code Section 111-13-05 is not a valid citation. The intended citation was probably 111-3-05
- This same error is repeated as it relates to Section 7 of the bill.
- Paragraph 14 of the summary, which addresses absentee voter requirements, cites to “R.C. 3509.031(B)(1)(5)(b)”. However, this sub-section of the Revised Code does not exist. The intended citation was probably R.C. 3509.031 (B)(5)(b).
An example of one of the misstatements of current law by the petitioners can be found in Paragraph 10, bullet point 12, of the summary stating that Am. Sub. H.B. 194 will “eliminate a provision of current law that permits such an individual’s provisional ballot to be counted if the election officials determine that the individual is eligible to vote.”
Under both current law and the law as amended by Am. Sub. H.B. 194, “election official” is a statutorily defined term. It includes the Secretary of State, employees of the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections, members of a local board of elections, the Director and Deputy Director of a local board of elections, and employees of the board of elections. Current law specifies that only the members of the board of elections can validate a provisional ballot. R.C.3505.183.
Therefore it is misleading to claim that “current law … permits such an individual’s provisional ballot to be counted if the election officials determine that the individual is eligible to vote.” A current statement of the law would be that current law permits such an individual’s provisional ballot to be counted if the members of the board of elections determine the individual is eligible to vote.
Also, because Am. Sub. H.B. 194 does not appropriate money, the only matters upon which a referendum can be held are either the law as a whole or entire sections of the law. In this case, petitioners submitted certain portions of sections of the law, rather than the section of law in its entirety. The petitioners properly characterized sections 5, 6 and 8. However, the summaries of sections 1 and 2 of Am. Sub H.B. 194 only summarized specific portions of sections 1 and 2 and were not fair and truthful in that they did not summarize everything included in sections 1 and 2. For example, it did not inform potential signers about changes related to accepting U.S. Passports as forms of identity.
The petitioners have the option to start the process over or challenge the failure to certify in the Ohio Supreme Court.
View a copy of the letter that Attorney General DeWine sent to Secretary Husted
Lisa Hackley 614-466-3840
Dan Tierney 614-466-3840