Backers of 2 rejected Youngstown charter amendments file legal action

By David Skolnick


Supporters of two proposed Youngstown charter amendments rejected by the Mahoning County Board of Elections have, as promised, filed legal action with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to overturn the decision.

Terry J. Lodge, a Toledo attorney, filed a writ of mandamus Thursday with the state’s highest court against the board and its members seeking to get the proposals on the Nov. 7 ballot.

“The Mahoning County BOE [Board of Elections] is not constitutionally authorized to decide what the law is, and whether the proposed Youngstown charter amendments conform to an interpretation by the BOE,” Lodge wrote. “The BOE is limited to reviewing the sufficiency of the petition and signature validity.”

In voting 4-0 not to certify the two proposals Wednesday, board members said a new state law, House Bill 463, requires them to invalidate a local initiative petition if they determine any part of the petition falls outside the local government’s constitutional authority to enact it.

One proposal would ban fracking and fracking-related activities – city voters have rejected similar ballot initiatives six previous times – and the other would change how elections are conducted in the city, including restricting who can give campaign contributions.

State law gives jurisdiction over fracking to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The election measure restricts political contributions to $100 per ballot measure and candidate and permits only registered city voters to contribute. The proposal also bans corporations, labor unions, political-action committees, political parties and other campaign-funding entities from giving any contributions to city candidates and ballot measures.

That could conflict with free-speech issues and campaign-contribution court decisions.

Lodge wrote in his legal filing that the board was improperly “designated by the Ohio General Assembly to sit as judges over initiative proposals” under House Bill 463 in violation of the state’s constitution.

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