A bill containing an assortment of provisions ranging from autism to property foreclosures was passed by the Ohio Legislature in December, 2016. That bill was identified as HB463. Among its many provisions was one that required a Board of Elections or the Secretary of State to invalidate a local initiative petition: 1) if it does not fall within the scope of the local government’s constitutional authority to enact ordinances or 2) if it does not satisfy the statutory prerequisites to place the issue on the ballot.
The Board of Elections (BOE) and Secretary of State have been responsible for item 2 above, i.e., counting and validating signatures and overseeing procedures However, determining the constitutionality of the wording on a petition would be far beyond their skill level. The separation of powers doctrine enshrined in our system of government has given that role to the judicial system. Their role begins once legislation has been voted into existence and questions are raised about constitutionality.
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against the HB 463 provisions in the case of a municipal charter amendment. The ruling against the Williams County Charter will be taken to the Ohio Supreme Court for a decision on county charters.