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Reps. Sweeney, Crossman introduce bipartisan bill to prohibit petition blocking

House Bill 752 would put Ohioans first, defend the democratic process
August 28, 2020
Democrat Newsroom

COLUMBUS – Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) and Jeffrey A. Crossman (D-Parma) today announced the introduction of House Bill (HB) 752. The legislation would prohibit anyone from interfering with the circulation of election petitions by threatening, intimidating or compensating another person, a practice commonly referred to as petition blocking.

“Petition blocking enables bad actors to trample on the democratic process and silence the voices of Ohioans. Passing HB 752 would end this nefarious tactic and give power back to the people of Ohio,” said Rep. Sweeney. “The First Amendment right to petition – and for voters to have a say – is sacred and foundational to our democracy, which is why I’m encouraged to see bipartisan support for this bill. We must come together to bring real change out of this tragic chapter in Ohio history.”

Petition blockers were used in 2019 to prevent signature gathering for a popular referendum on House Bill (HB) 6. It’s now at the center of an FBI investigation into an alleged $60 million public corruption scheme led by former Republican Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford).

“Unfortunately, while this petition blocking activity was occurring last year, neither the Attorney General nor the Secretary of State acted to stop it,” said Rep. Crossman. “It's time for the legislature to spell out that this type of activity is unacceptable because it effectively silences the voices of Ohioans and denies people their fundamental right to petition the government for change. It's my hope that some good will come of what happened by reinforcing the right of Ohioans to put issues on the ballot and change the law if they feel the legislature isn't responding to their concerns in a timely manner or not truly representing the interests of the people.”

HB 752 would prohibit anyone from interfering with an initiative, referendum, recall or any other petition filed for the purpose of submitting a question, issue, or candidate to the voters at an election. Specifically, it would bar anyone from knowingly:

  • Seeking by interference, threat, intimidation, or compensation to influence any person to refrain from signing such a petition or to refrain from circulating such a petition;
  • Compensating any person in exchange for doing so;
  • Authorizing or directing an employee, as part of the employee's job duties, to do so;
  • Compensating any person in exchange for the person agreeing to refrain from causing another person to circulate a petition.

HB 752 now awaits referral to a House Committee and its first hearing.