Over the last couple years, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has helped several counties draft Home Rule Charters, and several cities draft local charter amendments. Charters are local constitutions that define the people’s local governing structure.
In December 2016, the Ohio legislature used HB463 to torpedo these initiatives. The General Assembly gave the Secretary of State and local Boards of Elections full authority to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot based on their opinion of the content.
This is a clear violation of citizens' rights. CELDF is now challenging the use of HB463 and we need your help!
What does democracy have to do with clean air, water, and soil? For communities across Ohio, the answer is: everything.
Ohio Communities Fighting for Democratic and Environmental Rights
Today, shale gas drilling and fracking and its infrastructure run rampant across the state: fracking wells dot rural and suburban communities, pipelines cut through farm fields and back yards, compressor stations inundate local residents with air and sound pollution, and wastewater injection wells threaten to cause earthquakes and contaminate water sources.
Some of the hardest hit communities recognized no one was going to rescue them. The people decided to take action to protect themselves and the places they love for future generations. They resolved to make the decisions about what happens, where they live.
Communities in Action
Athens, Portage, Meigs and Medina Counties worked with CELDF to draft Home Rule Charters in 2015 and 2016. These local constitutions recognized the right to a healthy environment, the right to local community self-government, and the rights of nature to exist and flourish. Besides defining what government structure the people want, the charters also banned fracking and its infrastructure as violations of those rights. Residents qualified the measures, gathering signatures to place the charters on the ballot for a vote by the people. In both years they were kept off the ballot by their own elected officials.
The people refuse to surrender their right to protect themselves, and their right to alter their form of government. Despite the state’s repeated efforts to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot, Athens and Medina County residents gathered signatures again in 2017. This summer, they submitted well over the necessary signatures to County Boards of Elections for the November ballot.
Residents in chartered cities are determined to protect themselves as well. Youngstown and Bowling Green community members also worked with CELDF to draft charter amendments recognizing their right to clean water, a livable climate, and their right to fair and free local elections. They recently submitted petitions to place their measures on the ballot in November and await decisions by government officials.
The Corporate State in Action
What happens when the people dare to govern themselves? The corporate state takes action to stop them. In December 2016, the Ohio legislature put these citizen initiatives in their cross-hairs. They adopted HB463, authorizing the Secretary of State and local Boards of Elections full authority to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot based on their opinion of the content.
Now, county Boards of Elections are using HB463 to thwart direct democracy – and Common Pleas Courts are backing them up. Together, they are blocking the measures from the ballot based on their content.
HB463 and the Boards of Election’s actions are an egregious violation of the people’s democratic right to local community self-government. Further, they are a violation of separation of powers. It is the judicial branch of government that exercises the authority to make decisions about the content of citizen initiatives after they’ve been adopted – not the Secretary of State or Boards of Elections.
The people of Ohio are not standing for it.
Help Us Help the People of Ohio
CELDF is assisting these communities to challenge HB463 and the actions of the Boards of Elections. If we win, citizen initiative will be protected, not just for residents of Athens, Medina, Youngstown and Bowling Green , but for all Ohio residents.
If we lose, Ohio residents will be at the mercy of the Secretary of State and Boards of Elections’ opinions regarding the content of their proposed measures. It will not matter how well qualified citizen initiatives may be – if the content is unappealing to those already in power, they will be able to block the people from voting.
This will impact not just environmental issues – but LGBTQ, worker rights and minimum wage, predatory lending, immigration, election law and myriad other issues.
Make Your Move: Support Our Fight to Protect Citizen Initiative!
We have filed an expedited appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge HB463 and compel the county Boards of Elections to place the people’s county charter initiatives on the ballot in Athens and Medina. We anticipate filing in the next week to ten days on the charter amendments for Youngstown and Bowling Green.
Your donation will help us with the costs of legal research, preparation of merit and reply briefs, and filing fees. All funds will go toward these costs. CELDF is a 501(c)3 and your donation is tax deductible.
What’s happening in Ohio is happening across the country. People’s rights are being suppressed as local self-governing authority is stripped by state and federal government. Ohioans are on the front lines of this fight. Helping them to stop the weakening of their right to local community self-governance helps protect your rights as well. Make your move to fight for rights!
Get updates about this case
Subscribe to receive email updates from the case owner on the latest news about the case.
Be a promoter
Your share on Facebook could raise $26 for the caseI'll share on Facebook
There are no public comments on this case page.