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Ohio Voting Referendum: Democrats Need 10,000 Signatures To Force A Vote (UPDATE)

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OHIO VOTING REFERENDUM
AP

Democrats and progressives in Ohio have just over a week to gather 10,000 more petition signatures to force a referendum to overturn the state's controversial voting laws.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that the Ohio secretary of state's office ruled that just over 221,000 valid signatures are on petitions seeking the referendum. Over 330,000 signatures were submitted by those opposed to the bill. Under Ohio law, organizers have until Nov. 24 -- 10 days after Secretary of State Jon Husted's (R) decision -- to gather the additional signatures which would force the referendum.

Democrats indicated that they will be able to meet the minimum and are in the process of collecting signatures.

The voting law in question brings multiple changes that have angered progressive groups around the country. Among the provisions are a reduction in the state's early voting period, an end to the practice of mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters and a requirement that counties prepay the postage on absentee ballots. The bill was passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich (R).

The practice of mailing out absentee ballot applications to all voters has been common in heavily-Democratic Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties -- home to Cleveland and Columbus. In August, Husted announced he would accept absentee ballots this year that had postage paid for by the county government, contrary to policy prior to the summer.

After groups decided to seek to overturn the law, it was suspended pending the referendum. A vote on the referendum would take place in 2012 if the petitioning process is successful. The movement to repeal the law is being led by a coalition of Ohio Democratic groups and former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D), who preceded Husted in the office.

The move comes amid growing use by progressives of a provision in the Ohio constitution that allows voters to overturn laws passed by the legislature and governor. Earlier this month, Ohio voters repealed the state's controversial collective bargaining law, which was also signed earlier this year by Kasich.

The provision had been used rarely over the years, with the last two occasions in 2005 to overturn a law regarding pay day lenders and 1997 to overturn a law reducing workers' compensation benefits. In 2007, a petition was rejected for lacking enough signatures to force a referendum on a law regulating the placement of strip clubs.

Earlier this month, Maine voters utilized a similar provision in that state's constitution to overturn a bill signed by Gov. Paul LePage (R) to end same-day voter registration in the state. In October, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a report saying that over five million voters around the country could be denied the right to vote under new laws adopted in a dozen states. The report included a discussion of the Ohio law.

UPDATE: 6:02 p.m. -- Ohio Democratic Party Spokesman Seth Bringman told The Huffington Post that the party has 150,000 additional signatures collected. Brigman said the signatures would be delivered to the secretary of state's office in the coming days to have the referendum qualify for the 2012 ballot.

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