Referendum Effort On CDA Fails, Law Takes Effect in Ohio

CCV Perspective

For Immediate Release: October 17, 2007
Contact: David Miller (513) 733-5775

Referendum effort on Community Defense Act fails
Supplemental signatures still come up short; law takes effect

Columbus, OH – Today Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner officially announced that Ohio’s sex business owners had failed to collect sufficient signatures on their referendum petition, an effort to repeal the recently enacted Community Defense Act (Sub. SB 16).

They needed a total of 241,366 signatures of registered voters in order to prevent the law from going into effect and to force the law onto Ohio’s November 6 ballot.  A set of supplemental signatures handed in October 5 failed to bring them up to that number.

After passage by 75% of Ohio’s legislators, Sub. SB 16 became the law in Ohio on June 4.  It was scheduled to go into effect 90 days later, on September 4.  In that 90-day interim period, Ohio’s constitution allows opponents of the law to collect signatures on a referendum petition in order to prevent the law from going into effect and send it to the ballot for final voter approval.

On the surface, the first 383,600 signatures handed in September 3 appeared to be more than sufficient.  Accordingly, Secretary of State Brunner “stayed” the law until the signatures could be validated by the various county boards of elections.

When the county reports came in, it was determined that only 125,430 of the 383,600 submitted were valid signatures of registered voters.  More than 2 out of every 3 were invalid, and many of those were flagrantly fraudulent.

One County Board of Elections official said the fraud was so obvious on some petitions that every signature was in the same ink, the same handwriting, and in alphabetical order.

Even at that point, though, the referendum campaign still had life.

The constitution also allows a grace period during which the petitioners were allowed to collect supplemental signatures to make up the shortage.  They fired the consulting group, The Craig Group, which had paid over $1 million to collect the first set of signatures and contracted another company, Labor Ready. On Friday, October 5, an additional 228,861 signatures were turned in with much higher expectations. But much to the petitioners dismay, the supplemental signatures fared worse than the first.

FINAL ANSWER? WE HOPE SO.

The Secretary of State’s office announced on Wednesday, October 17, 2007, that of the combined total of 613,587 signatures submitted, only 181,808 were valid. With an overall 29% validity rate, one major newspaper called it one of the most pathetic statewide petition efforts in recent memory, falling 59,558 signatures short of the required 241,366. The Secretary’s announcement of the insufficiency allowed the law to take effect immediately.

Attorneys representing the petitioners already had filed various protests seeking to have many of the signatures invalidated by the county boards of elections reinstated.  Hearings on those protests have been scheduled for next week. State law and Ohio Supreme Court decisions should prevent the signatures from being reinstated.

CAN’T WIN WITH FRAUDULENT PETITIONS? TRY THE COURTS!

Also today, an entirely different group of attorneys representing the business owners filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the new law. The court action was filed against every county and city attorney in whose jurisdiction is or has been a sexually oriented business.  In conjunction with their suit, they asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the law from going into effect pending the outcome of the suit.

Fortunately, the federal judge assigned to the case, Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr., has already denied the TRO until a final decision some time Thursday.

“The lawsuit is certainly no surprise,” was the response of CCV’s vice president of public policy, David Miller. In June, immediately after CDA became law, Miller predicted the law would eventually be challenged in court. “Although the regulations in CDA already have been tested and upheld by federal courts, these people are desperate. They’re well funded and won’t give up easily.”

Miller believes that the other part of his June prediction will prove true as well.  “In the event of a defeat at the district court level, the case then would be appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals under which Ohio falls.  That court already has upheld laws with more stringent regulations than those in CDA.

CCV’s president, Phil Burress, agrees, and adds that the organization is prepared for the legal battle. “We’ve fought too long and too hard for Ohio’s communities and families, and come too far, to become discouraged at this point,” said Burress. “It may be well into 2008 before all the legal challenges have run their course, but eventually we believe CDA will be the law and the multiple crimes and economic problems associated with sex businesses in Ohio will begin to subside.”