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Petitioners seeking a constitutional amendment on congressional and state redistricting reform are short on the number of signatures required to put the issue on the November ballot, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office announced Wednesday.
Voters First submitted 466,352 signatures to the office July 3 and 254,625 — about 55 percent — were certified as belonging to registered Ohio voters. Enough signatures were collected in 34 of Ohio’s 88 counties to meet the required 5 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the 2010 election, 10 counties short.
The group has 10 days to submit more than 130,000 valid signatures and meet the county threshold. In three of the state’s largest counties — Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Lucas — more signatures were deemed invalid than valid.
Voters First official Ann Henkener of the League of Women Voters of Ohio said she’s confident volunteers can recoup the signatures.
“We would have liked every last one of our signatures to be valid,” Henkener said. “We wouldn’t have filed on July 3 if we weren’t pretty confident we were going to make it.”
Henkener said the group has been collecting signatures and will continue to until the July 28 deadline.
The proposed constitutional amendment would create a bipartisan citizen commission tasked with drawing Ohio House, Ohio Senate and congressional districts in public meetings. The plan was prompted by 2011 revisions critics say were made in secrecy to protect incumbents. Currently, a board of elected state officials and the General Assembly redraw lines every 10 years following the U.S. Census.
Republicans say the plan and the organization is a front group for the Ohio Democratic Party and liberal organizations. The initiative has been endorsed by labor unions, the SEIU and We Are Ohio, which raised more than $42 million to defeat Senate Bill 5 last year.
The Ohio Republican Party has volunteers examining petitions as they return from county offices. Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said Wednesday’s announcement was not surprising.
“It is continuously becoming ever clearer that the Voters First petition is based on fraud and deceit,” Bennett said in a statement Wednesday. “These discrepancies go far beyond the claims of Voters First where they cite ‘four examples’ or ‘isolated incidents’ of bad petitions submitted.”
Henkener said Voters First has aggressively dealt with paid circulators who accepted false signatures and the Republican attacks discredit the hundreds of volunteers working on the campaign.
“The League is not going to be connected with shoddy work,” Henkener said. “Once you have that many folks out there, it’s hard to be perfect.”