Ohio SC orders board to replace amendment's ballot language

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 13, 2012, 12:50pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - The Ohio Supreme Court, in a ruling late Wednesday, granted a writ of mandamus sought by proponents of a proposed constitutional amendment, which seeks to change the way in which state and federal legislative districts are drawn.

The Court's writ ordered the state Ballot Board to reconvene "forthwith" to replace a board-approved, condensed description of the proposed amendment with ballot language that "properly describes" the amendment.

The amendment is scheduled to appear on the state's Nov. 6 ballot.

The Court, in its 20-page per curiam decision, said it based its ruling on findings that the board-approved text contained material omissions and factual inaccuracies.

Also, it did not properly identify the substance of the proposed amendment, it said.

"While we do not suggest that either the board or the secretary was motivated by anything other than honorable intentions in approving the ballot language or that they intended to mislead voters, the language has the effect of being misleading," the high court wrote.

The Court's ruling was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton,Terrence O'Donnell, Robert R. Cupp and Yvette McGee Brown.

Pfeifer entered a separate opinion listing objections to specific provisions of the board's proposed language and suggesting text for a proper ballot summary.

O'Connor entered an opinion, joined by Stratton and McGee Brown, stating that the Court is barred by the constitutional separation of powers from usurping the board's exclusive authority to craft the ballot language describing the proposed amendment.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger dissented, arguing that the board's summary language conveys the substance of the proposed amendment and should be upheld because it does not "deceive, mislead or defraud" voters.

Following the Court's ruling, Secretary of State Jon Husted called an emergency meeting of the board Thursday morning.

Husted serves as chairman and oversees the board's proceedings.

According to a news release, the board was expected to meet to consider and certify the ballot language for the proposed constitutional amendment.

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

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