ResponsibleOhio Meets Deadline for Signatures
On July 30, 2015, ResponsibleOhio submitted 95,572 signatures in an attempt to get its marijuana legalization ballot amendment to qualify for the 2015 election. Although the group purportedly collected and submitted 660,190 signatures in June, the secretary of state’s office determined that only 276,082 were valid, causing ResponsibleOhio to fall short of qualifying.
ResponsibleOhio had 10 days to collect 29,509 signatures to make up for the shortfall, which was handily accomplished.
“The enthusiastic and overwhelming response we’ve received from hundreds of thousands of voters across the state has shown us one thing–it’s time for marijuana legalization in Ohio,” said ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James in a statement. “Despite some politicians’ games, we look forward to presenting to voters our comprehensive plan to tax, regulate and make marijuana safe in our state.”
In addition to the more than 95,000 signatures, ResponsibleOhio also submitted 27,585 voter registrations. Although it is impossible to accurately predict how many signatures will be found valid, the odds are still stacked in favor of ResponsibleOhio qualifying for the ballot.
When ResponsibleOhio submitted signatures the first time, only 42 percent were found to be valid, which is rare for Ohio ballot initiatives. Assuming that ResponsibleOhio has the same historically low validation rate it did last time, the marijuana organization would still have 42,051 valid signatures; more than enough to qualify.
However, even if ResponsibleOhio collects enough signatures to qualify for the 2015 ballot, it may not matter. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has launched an investigation into ResponsibleOhio for potential voter fraud. According to Husted’s office, there have been some discrepancies between electronic and hard signatures.
“As with every possible case of election fraud, it is my responsibility to investigate and hold accountable anyone who may have cheapened the voice of all Ohioans by cheating the system,” Husted said in a press release. “I have long stated that voter fraud is rare, but it happens; and when it does, we will call out the guilty parties and hold them accountable.”
In addition to the discrepancies, Husted’s office also warned ResponsibleOhio that the organization managing its petition drive was submitting an alarming number of false voter registrations.
In a statement, Larry James, legal counsel for ResponsibleOhio, fired back at Husted by saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
“We brought these very discrepancies to Secretary Husted, and now he’s trying to punish us for pointing them out publicly,” James said. “Instead of working with us and addressing the problems within his office and at the County Boards of Election, Secretary Husted has slapped us with a subpoena meant to silence us and chill any future opposition.”
If any evidence of fraud is found, it could spell the end of ResponsibleOhio’s well-financed marijuana ambitions. Despite spending $2 million on its ballot initiative so far, there has been stiff opposition to the group’s efforts, even from marijuana supporters.
Even with the fierce opposition and setbacks, ResponsibleOhio continues to push forward; the only question that remains, how far will they get?