WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of Ohio voters yesterday filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court challenging Ohio Attorney General David Yost’s (R) recent rejection of a proposed pro-voting constitutional amendment and accompanying summary language.
If approved by voters, the proposed amendment — entitled the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights — would allow same-day voter registration during early voting and on Election Day, implement automatic voter registration, permit no-excuse mail-in voting for all Ohioans, allow voters to cast ballots without ID by signing a declaration attesting to their identity and more.
Under Ohio law, citizens who wish to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot via the initiative petition process must first submit to the attorney general for approval a written petition containing one thousand signatures, the text of the proposed amendment and summary language of the amendment.
According to the complaint filed yesterday, Yost twice refused to certify the proposed amendment for the next phase of the petition process, initially in early January on the basis that the previous version of the amendment’s summary language and title were misleading. In his most recent Jan. 25 rejection letter — the subject of the yesterday’s complaint — Yost exclusively found that the amendment’s title was “highly misleading and misrepresentative” of the amendment’s contents.
The Ohio voters behind the challenge contend that Yost had no legal authority to review the amendment’s title at this stage of the petition process and is only supposed to review the summary language itself to ensure it is fair and truthful. “Indeed, proponents of a ballot measure are not required to include a title until a later stage of the petition process,” the petition states.
In addition to arguing that Ohio Voters Bill of Rights is an accurate representation of the amendment’s substance, the petitioners ask the Ohio Supreme Court to issue an order requiring Yost to certify the summary language “as a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment.”
If the proposed amendment and summary language are ultimately approved by Yost, they will next head to the Ohio Ballot Board for its approval. Thereafter, the coalition of groups behind the amendment — the Ohio NAACP, Ohio Unity Coalition, Ohio Organizing Collaborative and others — can begin collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures in order to get the amendment placed on the ballot.
In a state where Republican lawmakers have enacted strict anti-voting laws, voting rights advocates view the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights as an important step forward in making voting more accessible and inclusive. “This amendment would help guarantee that all voices are heard and that all voices are counted in our electorate,” stated Petee Talley, an Ohio voting rights advocate and representative for the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights.