Today, the Ohio Supreme Court struck a blow to the people’s constitutional right
to use citizen initiative to propose a county charter form of government.
September 21, 2017: Athens and Medina County residents used citizen initiative to propose a county charter form of government, duly qualifying their measures for the November ballot. Their local Boards of Elections (BOE) blocked the measures, claiming they did not properly specify details related to the government structure. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted residents to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Full Press Release here.
The Court refused to place the charters on the ballot. The measures included bans on fracking activities and infrastructure projects.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice’s Fischer and O’Neill were clear in their dissent:
“I would hold that the Medina and Athens County Boards of Elections exceeded their authority and thereby abused their discretion in refusing to place the proposed county charters on the ballot. Whether the proposed county charters are constitutional are decisions for the courts, and as we have consistently held, those decisions should be made only after the election, if the measures pass.”
“Today’s decision is indicative of our finding at all levels of government: When the government that is protecting industry profits over ‘we, the people,’ is confronted with the people’s reforms, that government will not allow the reform to go to a vote of the people,” stated Dick McGinn of Athens County.
Lynn Kemp of Medina County added, “The Court has deliberately created an unattainable mandate! In order for us to meet its requirements and include every single power and duty spelled out in the ORC would require a charter and petition that is hundreds, if not thousands, of pages long. They have rendered our constitutional right to propose a county charter meaningless.”
Tish O’Dell, CELDF Ohio Organizer adds, “Of course the Court found on behalf of industry and corporate profits. This is what it means to live in a Corporate State. Any illusion that we live in a democracy is obliterated with this decision. It is clear we need a new system – a new mechanism for the people to legislate and protect their communities from poisons and toxins that benefit greed.“
Initiatives for charter amendments in both Youngstown and Bowling Green have also been kept off the November ballot. They are currently pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.