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What is Fair Elections Ohio?

Fair Elections Ohio (FEO) is an Ohio state political action committee formed for the sole purpose of promoting a referendum on parts of Am. Sub. H.B. 194 that, if enacted, makes it harder for Ohioans to vote and to have their votes counted. How did Fair Elections Ohio (FEO) form? FEO formed when several Democratic attorneys and activists, after conferring with Democratic members of the Ohio legislature and members of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials of both major political parties, examined Am. Sub. H.B. 194 and analyzed the bills effect on Ohio voting for the future. This group decided to honor the bipartisan efforts of many of Ohios election officials and seek to refer for voter approval (referendum) only those parts of the bill that made it harder to vote or for votes to be counted. The group endeavored to deal only with entire sections of the bill, but the way the bill had been drafted necessitated taking the Constitution of Ohio at its word in authorizing Ohioans to submit for voter approval any provision of law, section or item of a bill passed by the Ohio General Assembly. How was the referendum petition on H.B. 194 prepared? As more Ohio activists and concerned citizens began examining the bill, the consensus became clear: certain parts of this bill could not become law without submitting the questions of these changes directly to Ohio voters for their consideration. Various teleconferences on Sundays and evenings took place to build a strong coalition of organizations, groups of voters and public officials and citizens of Ohio who care deeply about the integrity of the states election system and access for all eligible Ohioans to the power of the vote. Attorneys involved in forming the group began the work on drafting the petition and especially the summary. H.B. 194 is 254 pages as enrolled, and state requirements require that each page be made a part of the petition. Since only part of the bill was being referred for voter approval, the bill was carefully marked and notated to demonstrate which laws, sections and items are to be submitted for voter approval. The summary tracks the changes as marked in the bill and often uses language directly from the Ohio Legislative Service Commission official analysis of the bills changes and import. What is the effect of submitting H.B. 194 to a referendum vote? When a referendum petition is filed with the Secretary of State with at least the required number of signatures needed within 90 days of a bill being signed by the Governor of the state (H.B. 194 was signed on July 1, 2011), the bill does not become law unless and until the earlier of the following happen: 1) the petitioners fail to gather enough valid signatures to enable the

referendum to be submitted to the voters (after review by the states boards of elections and the opportunity for ten additional days to gather signatures and a review of those signatures by the states boards of elections), or 2) a vote of the electors of the state that approves the laws, sections or items submitted for their approval. If the requisite number of valid signatures are timely submitted and a vote taken disapproving of the measure(s) submitted, the provisions of law, sections and items do not become law. In any event, they are stopped from becoming law until after a vote of the people. Current law is retained until after the vote. The filing deadline for the H.B. 194 petition is September 29, 2011. How does the timely filing of a referendum petition with the required number of signatures affect the 2011 general election? Under current law absentee voting begins October 4, 2011 for the November 8, 2011 general election. Voter registration closes October 11, 2011. Despite the controversy about this overlap in the 2008 Ohio presidential election, no move has been made until now to eliminate this overlap between absentee and early voting and the close of voter registration. If H.B. 194 were to become law on September 30, 2011, absentee voting would not begin until October 18, 2011 (two weeks of early voting eliminated). Early voting in person would not begin until October 22, 2011 and would end Friday, November 4, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. There would be no Sunday voting, no Saturday afternoon voting and not voting in the evening after 6:00 p.m. anywhere in the State of Ohio. If successfully filed and certified for the ballot, when will the H.B. 194 referendum be on the ballot? Because of changes adopted to the Ohio Constitution by the voters in November 2008, the referendums filing date will be too late for placement on the November 2011 ballot. Ohio Constitutional provisions allow its placement only on a general election ballot, which will be the 2012 presidential election ballot. This means that, if the referendum petition is certified for the ballot, current law (for which changes have been referred for a vote) will remain in place for the 2012 presidential election. What are the requirements for a referendum on H.B. 194? The Ohio Constitution and laws provide that an initial referendum petition with at least 1000 valid signatures be submitted to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General for their 10business day review of signature validity (submitted to boards of elections), the copy of the law referred and the truthfulness and fairness of the summary of the referendum (the latter being within the purview of the AG). Once these state officers certify whether these requirements have been met, they notify the petitioning committee, which, upon receiving certification, must prepare petitions containing the certifications of the Secretary and the Attorney General and begin circulation in earnest. At least 231,154 valid signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State before H.B. 194 becomes law (by September 29, 2011) to stop the parts referred from becoming law, and of those signatures there must be at least 3% each of the number of electors who voted in the governors election in 2010 from at least 44 of Ohios 88 counties.