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U.S. Supreme Court move ends relaxed Ohio signature rules

Posted at 6:06 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 18:06:44-04

COLUMBUS — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an effort by Ohio ballot campaigns to win access to more flexible signature-gathering rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

The high court denied the campaigns’ application without comment Thursday. That leaves in place a decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals blocking relaxed restrictions on the signatures ordered by a lower court.

U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. on May 19 allowed campaigns promoting minimum wage, voting rights and marijuana issues to collect signatures electronically and a little more time to do it.

Backers of the voting package suspended their campaign last week. Thursday’s decision gives little leeway to the remaining campaigns ahead of the state’s now-unchanged signature deadline of June 30.

While some officials or courts in other states have allowed issue campaigns and candidates leeway in collecting required signatures, Ohio has pushed back aggressively on the issue. Republican Attorney General Dave Yost’s attorneys argued that a lower court judge who had temporarily relaxed the rules effectively “rewrote Ohio’s Constitution and Revised Code.”

The state also argued that changing signature-gathering rules now would lead to “last-minute confusion” and the possible passage of issues that Ohio otherwise wouldn’t have supported.