Ohio Representative Working to Smash Voters’ Rights

Thu, Dec 3 2009 by Anonymous

Last month, Ohio state representative Jennifer Garrison announced a plan for what she inappropriately refers to as a “Ballot Integrity Act”. The proposal would require people who help initiative and referendum campaigns collect signatures, and the companies they work for, to go through an onerous and potentially expensive registration process before they could work on a petition campaign.The law would also allow voters’ signatures to be thrown out because of mistakes made by campaign workers.

Basically, she wants people to have to register before they can exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and their right to petition under the Ohio constitution. If this isn’t anti-free-speech and anti-voter, I don’t know what is.

Over the last few days, I have been talking a lot about how restrictions on the initiative process and petitioning are aimed at killing the people’s ability to petition their government and silencing their voices. This Ohio proposal provides a perfect example of how, as I mentioned yesterday, restrictions on the process are aimed at driving up costs and throwing out signatures so that people effectively lose the right to petition.

The fact that the proposal includes the ability of the state to throw out signatures underscores my post on Tuesday about the petty ways special interests and politicians try to keep voters from accessing the ballot.

Petitioning government is free speech in the same way that going to a protest or writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is. Think about the absurdity of saying that you have to register with the state to write a letter to the editor?

Requiring registration is only part of it. If a voter signs a petition that was circulated by someone that wasn’t registered, or broke a petition law in another state (many state’s have petition laws that are unconstitutional) that voter’s voice is silenced when their signature is thrown out. Now, let’s think about how absurd it is to throw out voter’s signatures because the circulator isn’t registered with the state with an example of how that would apply in a different situation:Janitor

You mother is pregnant with you. She goes to the hospital, and a man comes out in a white coat and hairnet and she says “I need you to deliver this baby.” He points her to the delivery room and out you pop. Now in order to deliver babies in a hospital, the doctor as to be licensed (registered). As it turns out, the man who delivered you was actually the janitor, not a doctor. Because the person who delivered you wasn’t a licensed  (registered) doctor, your birth gets thrown out, you are not a person, and you can’t become one.

This is exactly what it is like when special interests and politicians claim that someone’s signature is invalid because the circulator who held the paper wasn’t registered with the state. The only end result of this is that the voters are silenced and their petition rights smashed.

With her zeal for bringing “integrity” to campaigns, strangely enough, Rep. Garrison hasn’t called for people who help out on campaigns of, say, state representatives, to have to register before they can help on candidate campaigns. I wonder why?