COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ballot campaigns in Ohio, including initiatives for local marijuana decriminalization measures, asked the US Supreme Court Wednesday to weigh in on whether they have the legal right to see signature-gathering rules relaxed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The move came after the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals declined Tuesday to reconsider its decision to block the campaigns from proceeding under less restrictive signature-gathering rules they’d been granted by a lower court.
US District Court Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. set up the more flexible rules in a May 19 decision. They would have allowed campaigns promoting minimum wage, voting rights, and marijuana issues to collect signatures electronically. Sargus had also extended the deadline for submitting signatures by about a month, to July 31.
But he stopped short of reducing the overall number of signatures Ohio requires, which some governors, election chiefs, and courts have done elsewhere amid a spate of COVID-19-related signature-gathering challenges.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, on behalf of the states’ elections chief, fellow Republican Frank LaRose, argues among other things that “wet ink” signature requirements laid out in Ohio’s Constitution cannot be changed without a vote of the people.
The ruling is another blow to three separate ballot efforts. Ohioans for Safe and Secure Elections would ask voters to approve a series of election law changes to make voting in Ohio easier.
Ohioans for Raising the Wage seeks a statewide vote to raise the state minimum wage from $8.70 to $13 over five years. The third effort would place marijuana decriminalization measures on more than a dozen town and village ballots across the state.