FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer
YOUNGSTOWN, OH: A week following Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s ruling which stripped residents in three counties of their right to vote on Home Rule Charter initiatives, the Mahoning County Board of Elections voted to do the same to Youngstown residents. The Board refused to place a proposed Charter Amendment on the November ballot, even though all requirements for qualifying the amendment to the ballot were met, and the Board’s own attorney advised placing the amendment onto the ballot.
Both the county and city initiatives include provisions banning fracking or its infrastructure. Fracking activities are engulfing communities across the state, polluting air and water, and contributing to global warming. Frack wastewater injection wells have also been tied to earthquakes in Ohio.
According to a Vindicator article dated today, the Board of Elections received guidance from the Secretary of State’s office on how to evade placing a duly qualified Charter Amendment on the ballot for a vote of the people.
This past week, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State on behalf of community members in Athens, Medina, and Fulton Counties to restore the initiatives to the November ballot. The complaint cites Article X, Section 3, of the Ohio Constitution which codifies the constitutional right of the people to vote on local Charter initiatives. CELDF is now assisting Youngstown residents to challenge the Board of Election’s decision.
CELDF Community Organizer Tish O’Dell stated, “The Ohio Secretary of State claims the legality of fracking prohibits communities from voting on it – if the litmus test for whether people could vote on women’s suffrage was its legality, women would still be denied the vote.”
Lynn Anderson, of FrackFree Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, explained, “The Ohio Constitution explicitly states we have a right to initiative. Claiming that the people’s initiatives are invalid because of their content is nothing more than an end-run around our constitutional right to vote. We will be challenging the Board of Election’s decision.”
CELDF’s lawsuit against the Secretary of State, and the challenge to the Mahoning Board of Elections decision, are expected to be decided in time for the November elections.
Through grassroots organizing and the practice of public interest law, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund works with communities across the country to establish Community Rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability. CELDF has assisted nearly 200 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other threats, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights.