Last summer, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted claimed “unfettered authority” to block county charter initiatives banning fracking. Dozens of residents in four counties collected more than 12,000 signatures of people who wanted to vote on the measures. The Ohio Supreme Court slapped Secretary Husted’s wrist, denying him such authority. However, the Court did not allow the measures to be voted on by county residents. The ruling, based on the Court’s interpretation of the Ohio Revised Code, indicated the Charters were required to define the county form of government.

County residents used the Court’s guidelines to redraft their Charter initiatives, which still include bans on fracking activities. They began collecting signatures this spring in Meigs, Athens, Medina, and Portage Counties. More than 14,000 signatures were gathered.

Oil and Gas Industry Ally

What does an oil and gas industry ally, such as Husted, do when he is told he cannot quash the people’s right to vote based on the content of their measures?

He appoints President of the Ohio Gas Association, Jimmy Stewart, to Meigs County Board of Elections to ensure rights-based County Charters are stopped locally. Stewart insisted the Meigs Board of Elections vote to block residents’ initiative from the ballot, ignoring their demands that he recuse himself. Fellow Board members complied. Two members abstained from voting.

Beyond Meigs

In fact, each of the Boards of Elections in Meigs, Medina, and Athens Counties are denying residents their right to vote. In Medina County, the Board of Elections tied. Ironically, that will go to Secretary Husted to cast the deciding vote. In Athens, the Board of Elections voted 4 – 0 to block the measure.

Portage County Board of Elections will vote next week.

In all of the Counties, residents are considering their next steps. They anticipate Secretary Husted will remain consistent in his stand against the people’s right to initiative and their right to vote.

Failing to Disempower We the People

The best outcome for Secretary Husted and the oil and gas industry is that residents will be disheartened, discouraged, and will fold in defeat.

The goal of the corporate state is for We the People to abandon our commitment to advance and protect rights to clean air and water, and forsake our inalienable right to govern the places where we live.

We will not.

Slave states counted on Abolitionists giving up their efforts to free slaves. State and federal government scoffed and ridiculed women seeking the right to vote. When women and their allies insisted on that right, efforts were made to quash them as well. And segregated states relied on using the might of the state to break the will of Civil Rights activists.

They could not.

History repeats itself, as efforts are made to divide and conquer us today – each tactic a red herring in an attempt to keep us from union. To cause us to waiver in our resolve and commitment to stand together.

All to keep the corporate state intact.

Our current government is sacrificing our communities to the oil and gas industry. When our water is used for profit and the gas is sucked out of the ground; when waste is injected beneath our feet and air is fouled with methane; when our local representatives turn their back on us and our state government allies with the oil and gas industry; We the People, our children and grandchildren, and the living ecosystems of which we are part, will bear the costs: of water trucked in for those who can afford it, of cancer clusters and sickness, of ruined property values.

The Story Behind the Story

This story is not about Jon Husted or Jimmy Stewart. It is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is not even about fracking. This is the story of We the People becoming excruciatingly clear that our representatives will not act to protect us. They will not shield us from harm. They will not preserve our democratic rights.

This is the story of We the People becoming painfully aware that our state government will only act on behalf of the oil and gas industry. It will protect corporate claimed “rights.” It will continue to force fracking, pipelines, injection wells, and compressor stations into our communities without our consent. And it will do everything necessary to protect itself from We the People.

Athens, Meigs, Medina, and Portage Counties bring forward their rights-based County Charters, grounded in the democratic principles enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and many of our earliest founding documents. And regardless of legal loopholes, local shenanigans, conflicts of interest, and corporate propaganda, our inalienable right to govern the places where we live – to protect our homes and communities – cannot be stripped away. There is no one who has that authority – unless we surrender it.

We will not go away

Rights-based laws from communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and others across the U.S. – will not go away. We realize the unjust, illegitimate corporate state we live under. The crack down on our democratic rights reflects the fear of the corporate state overseers, who will do anything to stop CHANGE.

There is no one who can do this for us. As we dare to forge ahead, we remember those who walked this road before. Like them, we have the courage to stand for what is just, to turn toward one another rather than against, and to act now. We are the Community Rights Movement.

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