Members from seven community groups in Ohio have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against their board of elections and the Ohio Secretary of State.
The complaint stems from citizens wanting a frack-free community and it claims officials have violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights of freedom of speech, right of assembly, right to petition the government for redress of grievances, right to vote, right of due process, and right of local, community self-government.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff communities have collected signatures to place initiatives on the ballot at some point between 2015 and 2018 and that all the communities have been blocked from the ballot by the defendants’ “unlawful actions.”
The complaint describes these actions as “placing unlawful blockades, insurmountable hurdles, and arbitrary and irrational procedures between the people of Ohio and their exercise and enjoyment of direct democracy.”
Members of Frackfree Mahoning Valley, say they have attempted to exercise the right to initiative by preparing and collecting signatures for proposed amendments to the Youngstown Municipal Charter.
The proposed charter amendments have addressed such issues as community rights, a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas, the right to clean water, and the right to free and fair elections.
The seven groups filing the suit are from several Ohio cities and counties, including Youngstown, Toledo and Columbus, as well as Portage, Medina, Athens and Meigs counties.
“Our government is based on the premise that the people create government to protect their rights and that when government is no longer doing that, the people have the right to alter, reform or abolish that government and form a new one that does,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, Youngstown Plaintiff. “When the very government that is violating the people’s rights is blocking them from making change, we cannot accept this. We need to challenge it and protect our right to self-govern. In Ohio, we need to protect our right to direct democracy through the initiative process. That is what this lawsuit is about.”
You can read the full Lawsuit here.