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Ohio Minimum-Wage Backers Sue to Ease Ballot Rules Due to Virus

April 1, 2020, 5:13 PM

An Ohio campaign to put a minimum-wage proposal on November ballots asked a court to ease the state’s signature-gathering requirements in light of statewide stay-at-home orders and business closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed by campaign organizer Ohioans for Raising the Wage, said the state’s requirements for sending a proposal to voters are “unduly burdensome on Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights in light of the COVID-19 public health crisis and must be enjoined.” The ACLU of Ohio filed a motion to intervene in the case on Tuesday.

If it reaches the ballot and wins voter approval in November, the proposal would amend the state constitution to raise Ohio’s minimum wage in annual steps until it reaches $13 per hour on Jan. 1, 2025. The state’s current minimum wage is $8.70 per hour, up from $8.55 per hour in 2019 after an annual increase based on inflation.

Ohio is one of 30 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25 per hour—counting Virginia, where a newly enacted minimum-wage law is scheduled to bring the first of several increases next January.

State law requires ballot petitions to gather signatures from Ohio voters equal to 10% of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent race. The measure would need 442,958 signatures, the group said in its complaint and motion for preliminary injunction, filed March 30.

The group said it had collected 73,968 signatures through March 12, when the state’s health director issued an order prohibiting large public gatherings. A few days later, the state closed polling locations for its March 17 primary elections, which the group said would typically be a prime opportunity to gather signatures from registered voters.

The lawsuit asks a state judge to lower the signature requirement to 6% of votes cast for governor, or 265,774 signatures, and to extend the July 1 deadline to Aug. 21, among other modifications to the petition requirements.

The case is Ohioans for Raising the Wage v. Larose, Ohio Ct. Com. Pl., No. 20-CV-002381, complaint filed 3/30/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Marr in Atlanta at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com

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