DeWine

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has rejected summary language for the proposed referendum on an election reform bill.

DeWine sent letters to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and a committee representing the petitioners, explaining his position, on Monday.

The Attorney General's Office explained that its explicit statutory duty is to determine whether the submitted summary "is a fair and truthful statement of the measure to be referred."

DeWine said he rejected the summary for the proposed referendum on House Bill 194 for two reasons: because it contains statements that are not accurate, and it does not fairly and truthfully describe the matter being referred.

The attorney general said some of the petitioners' citing of administrative code does not exist.

DeWine pointed to the third paragraph of the summary:

"The amendment of R.C. 3517.01 ... supersedes and makes void and of no further effect in the Ohio Administrative Code rules that became effective Jan. 7, 2011 (Ohio Admin. Code Section 111-13-05) ..."

However, Ohio Admin. Code Section 111-13-05 is not a valid citation. The intended citation was probably 111-3-05, DeWine said.

The same error is repeated as it relates to Section 7 of the bill, the attorney general said.

Paragraph 14 of the summary, which addresses absentee voter requirements, cites to "R.C. 3509.031(B)(1)(5)(b)." However, this sub-section of the Revised Code does not exist. The intended citation was probably R.C. 3509.031(B)(5)(b), DeWine said.

The attorney general said one of the misstatements of current law by the petitioners can be found in the tenth paragraph of the summary, which says HB 194 will "eliminate a provision of current law that permits such an individual's provisional ballot to be counted if the election officials determine that the individual is eligible to vote."

Under both current law and the law as amended by HB 194, "election official" is a statutorily defined term, the attorney general said.

It includes the Secretary of State, employees of the Secretary of State's Division of Elections, members of a local board of elections, the director and deputy director of a local board of elections, and employees of the board of elections.

Current law, DeWine said, specifies that only the members of the board of elections can validate a provisional ballot.

"Therefore it is misleading to claim that 'current law ... permits such an individual's provisional ballot to be counted if the election officials determine that the individual is eligible to vote.' A current statement of the law would be that current law permits such an individual's provisional ballot to be counted if the members of the board of elections determine the individual is eligible to vote," the attorney general wrote in his letter to Usted.

Also, because HB 194 does not appropriate money, the only matters upon which a referendum can be held are either the law as a whole or entire sections of the law, DeWine said.

In this case, petitioners submitted certain portions of sections of the law, rather than the section of law in its entirety.

The petitioners properly characterized sections 5, 6 and 8. However, the summaries of sections 1 and 2 of HB 194 only summarized specific portions of sections 1 and 2 and were not fair and truthful in that they did not summarize everything included in sections 1 and 2, DeWine explained.

"Due to all of these deficiencies, I cannot certify the proposed summary to be a fair and truthful summary of the matter to be referred and must, therefore, reject it," the attorney general wrote.

According to DeWine's office, the petitioners have the option to start the process over or challenge the failure to certify in the Ohio Supreme Court.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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