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Local Group Files Suit Against City and County Officials for Rejection of Ballot Initiative

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Local Group Files Suit Against City and County Officials for Rejection of Ballot InitiativePhoto by Walker Evans.
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Citizens’ ballot committee Everyday People for Positive Change (EDP) filed a complaint today in the Ohio Supreme Court with  the Franklin County Board of Elections and each individual member of Columbus City Council. The case alleges that city council has violated parts of the Ohio Constitution and the Columbus City Charter by voting to keep EDP’s initiative to reform council off the May primary ballot.

While EDP Committee Member Jonathan Beard says each item within the initiative is related to the other, city council rejected it for violating the single subject provision of the city charter.

EDP’s initiative would add six members to city council and create district representation, with three council members elected at-large and 10 elected by the residents of the districts from which they come. It would also revise the appointment process, turning the decision over to Designated Nominating Entities who would vote to nominate replacements for vacated district seats. Those nominees would then be swiftly appointed by council. Thirdly, the ballot initiative would reduce the number of signatures required for a candidate to be placed on the ballot from 1,000 to 100. And lastly, campaign donation limits would be implemented, capping both cash and in-kind contributions from any person or entity at $1,000. Political parties could give up to $5,000 to candidate campaigns.

Meant to give underrepresented neighborhoods more of a say in local government, district representation has been an ongoing debate in Columbus, with Beard and another group, Represent Columbus, putting a previous version of the current initiative on a special election ballot in August of 2016. Though the issue failed, council responded with the creation a charter review committee, meant to assess and possibly reform the makeup or operations of city council. Though the committee presented recommendations in July last year, council later tabled the discussion.

Beard accuses council of robbing constituents of their constitutional right to pursue needed changes.

“The council ignores decades of case law that says single subject rules are not a barrier to comprehensive legislation addressing multiple topics related to a single general purpose,” said Beard in defense of his multi-faceted initiative. “In this case, our goal is to improve the city council through elections systems and administrative reforms.”

“We believe in democracy,” Beard added, “and we believe Ohio’s highest court will rule quickly that state law applies even in the Republic of Columbus and will rule in our favor.”

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