Breaking news on the Special Session

On Memorial Day, we asked you to call for a “clean” bill to put Biden on the ballot – a clean bill and nothing more. Sadly, even though over 1,000 of you took action, Ohio’s gerrymandered Statehouse stayed true to form and didn’t listen. 

During the Special Session called by Gov. Mike DeWine, the state legislature passed a bill to put Biden on the November ballot (even though it was no longer needed as the national Democratic party had implemented their own fix). And they also passed a bill prohibiting foreign money in ballot campaigns (something already illegal and restricted by the Ohio Elections Commission). 

There was little opportunity for public testimony, and majority legislators didn’t pay much attention to what was presented to them (here’s a link to my testimony). (There was limited proponent testimony but ironically, written testimony supporting HB1 was submitted by one of Larry Householder’s lawyers.)

The final version of House Bill 1 (HB1–foreign money in elections) doesn’t improve transparency. It doesn’t shine a light on dark money or improve the disclosure of the funding of political advertisements and would not prevent a scheme similar to the House Bill 6/Householder scandal.

HB 1 prohibits foreign money in ballot campaigns but expands the definition of foreign nationals beyond the definition that the federal government uses to include those with Green cards. This expansion could negatively impact membership organizations engaged in ballot campaigns. 

The bill also gives disproportionate power to the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute, creating a situation in which the state’s lawyer could use their power for political advantage. The legislation was negotiated behind the scenes and passed in a matter of days. It is not clear if there will be unintended consequences. 

As for House Bill 2 (HB2–getting Biden on the ballot), not only was it unnecessary in the end, but it did not even create a permanent fix. In future years, presidential candidates may face the same issue. 

All in all, this special session was a bust for Ohio voters: it did nothing to prevent corruption, gave too much power to a partisan political actor, threw a damper on ballot campaigns, and made no permanent improvements in our process to get national candidates on the ballot. It’s time to end gerrymandering so we can have a Statehouse that works for the people! Rather than wringing our hands, let’s focus on creating a citizens redistricting commission. If you do not yet receive Fair Districts emails, you can sign up here to join the campaign.