The Franklin County Board of Elections has rejected the "Columbus Community Bill of Rights," a ballot issue that would have banned fracking within city limits.
Supporters of the initiative erupted with chants of “let us vote” and “not another Flint” after county election officials voted Friday to keep their measure off the ballot. The issue was approved by Columbus City Council in July.
Board members explained the ballot issue seemingly violates Ohio law, which gives a state agency the right to regulate gas and oil extraction.
Board member Brad Sinnott turned to a statute governing election boards’ responsibility in certifying initiatives which orders them to determine whether an initiative “falls within the scope” of a municipality’s authority.
But attorney Terry Lodge argues that isn't the boardmembers' role.
“The parsing of legality and illegality, preserving those portions that might be legal, vetoing things that aren’t legal, is reserved to the courts who have been doing it for a very long time in Ohio,” Lodge says.
And to an extent, Sinnott is sympathetic to that argument—noting he’d vote against the directives as a legislator and he’d rule against them as a judge.
“The instruction given to us by the General Assembly is one that a board of elections is ill-equipped to follow," Sinnott says. "It’s an instruction to perform a highly technical and legal analysis relative to, among other things, the home-rule provisions of Ohio’s constitution.”
Supporters raised a formal protest motion, but Sinnott and the other board members voted to reaffirm their rejection of the issue for November’s election.
This is the third time backers have tried to pass a fracking prohibition at the ballot box.