COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The coalition seeking to place a recreational marijuana initiative on the ballot was not deterred by the need to collect additional signatures to make the November election cut.
“It was like, all right, game on,” spokesperson Tom Haren said.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose informed the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Tuesday, July 25, it had missed the mark of verified signatures to qualify for the fall ballot — falling short by 679. Of the 222,198 it had submitted, just under the required 124,046 were verified.
In the 10 days that followed, when the coalition was able to gather supplemental signatures under Ohio law, Haren said volunteers mobilized.
“We saw even more of what we had seen the last couple of times we had gathered signatures, which is a lot of excited people,” he said.
By last Tuesday, it submitted 6,545 newly collected signatures to LaRose’s office for verification.
Why are signatures denied?
With one election in the rearview and another on the horizon, county boards of elections around Ohio have weathered a busy summer.
“We brought in about 40 additional folks,” said Aaron Sellers, the spokesperson for the Franklin County Board of Elections. “It was kind of an all hands on deck.”
The boards are tasked with administering elections in their counties, and those duties extend beyond the months of March, May, November and occasionally, August, Sellers said.
Between the abortion rights constitutional amendment, which will appear on the November election ballot, and recreational marijuana, which still hangs in the balance, Franklin County election officials also had their hands full with verification of more than 125,000 signatures. They will likely have more to verify, as the state determines whether recreational marijuana will officially make the cut.
Petition signatures can be invalidated for a variety of reasons — including if a voter has signed more than once on the same petition, if they’ve signed a petition outside of the county they reside in, and if the signature itself is illegible.
Absent handwriting expertise, Sellers said most Franklin County Board of Election workers have been around a while, and they all “bend over backwards” during the verification process. They can, if needed, verify a signature off of just one letter.
“We certainly give the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “But when you see something that’s not genuine, it sticks out like a sore thumb.”
Will marijuana make the cut?
An official decision hasn’t been handed down quite yet, but Haren said he felt confident Ohio voters will be asked come Nov. 7 whether the state should legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over.
With 10 times the additional signatures needed now gathered and submitted, Sellers agreed.
“I would find it incredibly hard to imagine that they wouldn’t get the number of valid signatures,” he said.
Election Day in Ohio is Tuesday, Nov. 7. To register to vote in Ohio, head here to the secretary of state’s office.