Ohio Liberty Council v. Brunner

 

 

On March 22, 2010, the Ohio Liberty Council began the process of the placing a health care freedom constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot.

The group filed petition summary language and nearly 3,000 signatures from registered voters in 48 counties with the Ohio Attorney General, who later approved the language as truthful and accurate.

 The amendment provides that:

  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system;
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; and
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

The Ohio Liberty Council is a statewide coalition of non-partisan grass roots groups in Ohio including: Central Ohio 9/12 Project, Cincinnati Tea Party, Young Americans for Liberty, Dayton Tea Party, Ohio Freedom Alliance and many more grass roots organizations. By working together, the member groups of the Ohio Liberty Council seek to achieve real results to protect and promote liberty in Ohio. More on the Ohio Liberty Council can be found at http://www.ohiolibertycouncil.org.

On April 9, 2010, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board ruled the proposed constitutional amendment should be split into two parts.

As a result, the board rejected the proposed amendment and told its sponsor, the Ohio Liberty Council, to start over.

 The move placed the Ohio Liberty Council in the untenable position of restarting the amendment language approval process and collecting two sets of 402,275 signatures by June 30. The group asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the Ballot Board’s action. “The Ohio Ballot Board got it wrong today,” said Warren Edstrom of the Ohio Liberty Council, “We will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold our amendment language and correct this error.”

 On April 14, 2010 the 1851 Center Filed an Ohio Supreme Court Complaint Against the Ballot Board.

In the writ of mandamus filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the 1851 Center asserted the Ballot Board’s actions were arbitrary and ran counter to the board’s own past precedent. The complaint contended the Ohio Liberty Council’s proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment addressed only one subject and should move forward as one constitutional amendment. Further, the Ballot Board’s ruling “effectively eviscerates the Ohio Liberty Council’s objective, and threatens to eviscerate access to the November, 2010 ballot,” the 1851 Center wrote in the complaint.

“We ask the court to review and correct the Ohio Ballot Board’s improper decision,” said Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center. “Our complaint rightfully attacks the constitutional authority of this unelected body to use its power to perform purely administrative tasks to destroy proposed constitutional amendments with which it disagrees. It does not have the constitutional authority to interfere with the Initiative rights articulated in Section 1, Article II of the Ohio Constitution.”

 On April 29, 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court Ordered the Ballot Board to Certify the Amendment Language.

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board abused their discretion and violated Ohio law in rejecting ballot language for the proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Constitutional Amendment. The court ordered Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to immediately certify the language and allow the petitioners to begin collecting signatures to qualify the issue for the November ballot. A copy of the court ruling is available here.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionally-granted rights of citizens to petition their government even when the arbitrary and self-serving decisions of Secretary Brunner and the ballot board attempt to block them,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson, who also drafted the amendment. “Secretary Brunner and the ballot board tried to use their purely administrative powers to destroy a citizen-initiated amendment with which they disagreed. Thankfully, the court checked this abuse, and Ohioans will have the opportunity to put the preservation of their health care freedom to a vote.”

In the decision, the justices wrote, “the ballot board abused its discretion and clearly disregarded R.C. 3505.62.” Further, the court upheld the special protections contained in the Ohio Constitution granting citizens the right to petition government.

Further, the court wrote, “the ballot board has a clear legal duty to liberally construe the right of initiative, and as long as the citizen-initiated proposed amendment bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object or purpose, the board must certify its approval of the amendment as written without dividing it into multiple petitions.”

 

 

 

April 13, 2010: 1851 Center’s Complaint

April 20, 2010: 1851 Center’s Merit Brief

April 22, 2010: Motion in Opposition of Extension