MEDINA TWP. — The citizens group Sustainable Medina County delivered petitions containing 6,494 signatures to the Medina County Board of Elections at 2:10 p.m. Thursday in support of a ballot issue Nov. 7 that would create a charter form of county government.
It marks the third attempt by the group, which came together after the $2 billion NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline was proposed in August 2014 with a construction route through Medina and Lorain counties among the dozen Ohio counties in all. The two previous charter initiatives were ruled off the ballot in 2015 and 2016.
Board of Elections Director Carol Lawler and her staff did a preliminary count of the petitions, each of which had room for signatures of 30 people who said they are residents of Medina County and a registered voter.
The number of signatures required for the ballot issue to be considered for certification was 4,814. According to state law, petitions must have signatures of 10 percent or more of the number of voters in a county who participated in the previous gubernatorial election. In 2014, there were 48,137 votes cast in the governor’s race won by John Kasich.
Lawler said the next step in the ballot process will be to verify the signatures and addresses with voter registration rolls. The 6,494 signatures gives Sustainable Medina County a cushion, in case some are invalid, said Sharon Township resident Kathie Jones, a leader of the group.
Lawler said the elections board would prepare a report and hold a public meeting July 10. The time will be announced in advance of the meeting at the board’s offices, 3800 Stonegate Drive, Suite C.
Board members Pam Miller, John Welker, Larry Cray and Sharon Ray will be joined at the meeting by county Prosecutor Forrest Thompson or a representative of his office, Lawler said.
“If the certification is found to be valid, they can say, ‘Put the issue on the ballot,’ ” Lawler said.
Last year, the two Democratic Party representatives on the board — Miller and Welker — voted to approve the petitions and send their recommendation to county commissioners for certification. But Cray and Ray, both Republicans, voted no. The 2-2 tie resulted in the board requesting Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to decide the matter.
On Aug. 2, Husted ruled the county charter proposal was invalid on an “alternative basis” and did not “satisfy the threshold requirements that define a charter initiative.”
Two years ago, Husted rejected the charter request along with others from Fulton and Athens counties and a legal challenge was upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court. The court ruled the provisions in the charter proposals did not include a form of government or a method for how members of the new government would be elected.
Jones said the 2017 initiative attempts to satisfy Husted’s objection from last year because it now spells out job descriptions for all elected officials in the county. “The petition increased from 11 pages to 15 because of that,” she added.
She said 62 people circulated petitions starting April 8.
While county governments in Cuyahoga and Summit changed from a system of commissioners to a county executive and council, Jones said Sustainable Medina is not seeking that type of change. The petition does create what Jones called a “bill of rights” that would give voters the ability to approve or reject issues such as the NEXUS pipeline.
Jones said delivering the petitions each year “is always a victory” for citizens’ rights.
“More people understand the issue and came to sign petitions. We are sending a message that we have rights concerning water, air and the county we live in. Our elected leaders have to stop playing politics with children’s lives.”
Contact Managing Editor Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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