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Ohio Public Interest Law: No, You do not need to live in Ohio to circulate petitions in Ohio

July 22, 2018

Ohio Revised Code Section 3503.06(C)(1)(a) declares that “Except for a nominating petition for presidential electors, no person shall be entitled to circulate any petition unless the person is a resident of this state and is at least eighteen years of age.”

Pretty straightforward, right? Not exactly.

Why? Because in 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson correctly determined that the law was unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the state from enforcing the law:

Accordingly, the Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendants from enforcing the residency requirement for circulators of petitions for candidates and initiatives set forth in Ohio Revised Code § 3503.06(C)(1)(a).

Citizens in Charge, Inc. v. Husted, S.D.Ohio No. 2:13-cv-935, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184669, at *10 (Mar. 16, 2015)

This is also included in Chapter 11 of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Ohio Election Official Manual, “A circulator is not required to be an Ohio elector or an Ohio resident.”

So, while the law remains “on the books” it is not, in fact, the law.

Citizens in Charge involved a statewide initiative petition, but the injunction applies to the all enforcement of the residency requirement for any initiative or referendum petitions, and any candidate petitions.

Finney Law Firm has on numerous occasions co-counseled with the attorney for Citzens in Charge, Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and are disappointed that this case is not more well known among Ohio political activists.

The issue has come up recently relating to the Hamilton County Sales Tax petition effort, and ongoing efforts to return Cincinnati City Council to two year terms. And it appears that confusion abounds, even among experienced political hands.

If you are circulating a petition or considering using out of state circulators for a petition effort, and someone tells you that circulators must live in Ohio; politely let them know that they are wrong and ask them to stop spreading such misinformation. If the person spreading the misinformation is a government official, contact the petition committee so that they can engage their legal counsel.

Finney Law Firm has assisted in drafting petitions and litigating initiative and referendum efforts throughout Ohio. If you or your petition group need assistance, contact Christopher P. Finney at 513-943-6655 or use our online contact form.