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Ohio to finally get gambling


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s office on Tuesday determined that proponents of the most recent casino gambling statewide petition submitted enough signatures found valid by the state’s boards of elections to qualify the issue for the November 2009 election ballot.

Litigation remains pending before the Ohio Supreme Court contesting the validity of particular signatures, with questions about circulator qualifications. Secretary Brunner has launched an investigation over allegations of circulator wrongdoing, but under new state constitutional provisions, the power to adjust signature totals lies with the Ohio Supreme Court.

County boards of elections reported 452,956 valid signatures for the proposal. It needed 402,275 valid signatures statewide, which is 10 percent of the number ballots cast in the 2006 gubernatorial race, to qualify for the ballot.

Also, the counties reported that the group Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan gathered more than 5 percent of the 2006 gubernatorial race in 73 counties, surpassing the 44 counties necessary for the collection of signatures.

Under Ohio law, the Secretary of State must determine if county boards of elections have reported enough valid signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The state constitution gives the Ohio Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to signatures and petitions that have been determined valid or invalid by a county board of elections.

Brunner’s investigation focuses on the potential for criminal prosecution of election wrongdoing. The secretary retains an independent authority to investigate allegations of election law violations.

On Monday, after reviewing the petitions returned by boards of elections, the Secretary of State launched a statewide inquiry with any findings to be referred to the State Attorney General and the local county prosecutors. An advisory detailing this for the county boards was sent on Monday, July 20.

“While I’m obligated to fulfill my duties under the constitution and certify this issue, I believe it’s important to investigate these allegations to ensure integrity of this and future ballot initiative elections. This is the first time the new constitutional structure has been used. We want to ensure the law is followed in this new process that we see as a fairer way to adjudicate claims about petition deficiencies,” she said.

Brunner, along with the bipartisan Ohio Elections Officials Association, supported the House Joint Resolution offered by a Republican and Democrat to change the process by which statewide petitions make it to the ballot. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters at the November 2008 election.