By Marc Kovac
A group that wants to block Republican-backed changes to Ohio’s election laws has submitted enough signatures to place the issue before voters next year.
Secretary of State Jon Husted certified more than 307,000 signatures submitted by Fair Elections Ohio to stop House Bill 194, setting the stage for a final decision by voters in November 2012.
The group needed about 231,000 valid signatures to make the ballot. It initially fell short of that total but collected and submitted additional petitions just before Thanksgiving.
“The voters are sending a message to the Ohio politicians and legislatures across the country voting-rights restrictions will not be tolerated by the people,” Greg Moore, campaign manager for Fair Elections Ohio, said in a released statement.
House Bill 194 proposes a number of changes to Ohio’s election laws, including eliminating the so-called “golden week” during which people could register to vote and cast ballots on the same day and prohibiting election boards from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to eligible voters.
It also called for an earlier end to Ohio’s in-person absentee voting period, though comparable language was later added to another elections bill.
Proponents believe the legislation is needed to help prevent fraud and ensure election rules are applied consistently across the state.
Opponents say the changes will make it harder for the elderly, low-income residents and minorities to cast ballots.
The referendum is one of several under way.
Democrats have until later this month to gather sufficient signatures in their attempt to block GOP-drawn congressional districts from taking effect, pending voters’ decision on the matter.
Additionally, tea party and related groups hope to place a right-to-work issue before voters to amend the constitution to bar mandatory membership or dues payments to labor unions.