Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ > Initiative and Referendum FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions



What laws authorize the initiative and referendum process and explain the requirements for submissions?
Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 3519, and the Ohio Constitution, Article 2, Section 1.

What are the signature requirements for petitions?
For this initial phase of the initiative and referendum process, the petitions need to be accompanied by at least 1,000 valid signatures of registered voters. There is no geographical county requirement at this stage. Petitioners can collect signatures from registered voters in one county, all 88 Ohio counties, or any number in between.

Where should petitioners submit their materials once they gather the necessary signatures?

For initiatives, petitioners should submit all materials to the Attorney General’s Office, 30 East Broad Street, 16th Floor. 

For referenda, petitioners should submit all original materials to the Secretary of State’s Office, 180 East Broad Street. Within one day, petitioners must submit a copy of the law subject to repeal and a copy of their summary to the Attorney General’s Office, 30 East Broad Street, 16th Floor.

Once petitioners submit initiative materials to the Attorney General’s Office, can they bring in additional signatures?
No.  ORC 3501.38 (I)(1) prohibits the submission of additional materials after a petition is filed in a public office. 

What is a part petition?
A part petition is essentially one “packet” or group of signatures, containing the specific language of the proposed initiative, a summary of the initiative, blanks for original ink signatures, a circulator’s statement and other requirements set forth by statute. Part petitions can contain multiple signatures, but all signatures on an individual part petition should be from registered voters of the same county. This is because a part petition is sent in whole to the appropriate county board of election for signature verification.

Why do county boards of election reject signatures?

Signatures can be rejected for a number of reasons. Below is a list of some common reasons that signatures may not be validated by local boards of election:

  • Signers may not be registered voters.
  • They may not be listed on a database of registered voters in that particular county.
  • They may not be registered at the address listed on the part petition.
  • Signatures may not have been submitted in ink.
  • Signatures on part petitions may not match signatures on file with the local board.
  • There may be errors on the circulator statement of the part petition.

What else does the Attorney General’s Office do to certify a petition?
The Attorney General has a limited role in the certification process for both initiatives and referenda. By statute, the Attorney General is required to examine the summary that accompanies the submission to determine whether it is a fair and truthful statement of the measure to be referred. If the Attorney General determines that the summary is fair and truthful (and in the case of initiatives that the signature requirement has been met), he will certify the summary to the Secretary of State, as chair of the Ballot Board.

How does the Attorney General evaluate the summary?
A “summary” as it relates to the initiated petition process has been defined by the Supreme Court as “a short, concise summing up,” which properly advises potential signers of a proposed measure’s character and purport.  State ex rel. Hubbell v. Bettman, 124 Ohio St. 24 (1931).  The general test for determining whether a summary is fair and truthful has been whether a reasonable individual of ordinary intelligence would feel misled after signing a petition based on the wording of the summary itself, or based on a particular item being omitted from the summary.

How are petitioners notified about the Attorney General’s decision on certification?
Petitioners are asked to provide an email address when they submit initiative and referendum materials. As soon as the Attorney General makes his decision, he will notify petitioners via email, and the decision will be posted on the Attorney General website.

What recourse do petitioners have if the Attorney General does not certify a summary?
If the Attorney General declines to certify a summary because it is not fair and truthful, petitioners may re-write the summary or re-write the initiative and submit their materials again. They will need to re-start the signature collection process, but they may solicit signatures from those individuals who signed the first petition. 

Can the Attorney General review a sample petition before the petitioners go out and collect signatures?
No. The Attorney General’s Office only reviews petitions that have already been submitted for certification. The office is not able to provide legal guidance to individuals with regard to this process, nor is the office able to pre-approve summary language.

What is the next step after the Attorney General certifies the summary?
In the case of an initiative, the Attorney General certifies the summary to the Secretary of State, who has ten days to convene a meeting of the Ohio Ballot Board. The five-member Ballot Board reviews the measure to determine whether it represents one issue or multiple issues. If it represents one issue, the Ballot Board will certify the measure as one issue. The Attorney General, in turn, will submit a verification to the Secretary of State. At this point, petitioners may begin the second phase of signature collection.

What if the Ballot Board determines that the initiative represents more than one issue?
If the Ballot Board determines that the initiative contains multiple issues, the petitioners must split the initiative in accordance with that determination, and submit summaries for each distinct issue to the Attorney General’s Office.  If the Attorney General determines that the summaries are fair and truthful, he will certify them and file verified copies with the Secretary of State. At this point, the petitioners may begin the second phase of signature collection for each initiative.