Although the lawsuit seeks to compel the attorney general to authorize a petition proposing a voting rights amendment to the Ohio State Constitution, Yost maintains there’s no reason for the Supreme Court to pick up the case so early in the legal process.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has asked the state Supreme Court to reject requests for an expedited trial in a lawsuit filed by civil rights organizations seeking enhanced voter protections ahead of the November general election.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, the lawsuit was filed against Yost late last week. In their complaint, civil rights organizations say that the state’s Republican attorney unlawfully rejected a petition for a proposed constitutional amendment to Ohio’s voting rules.
The proposed measure deemed “the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights,” would permit automatic voter registration and increase the number of ballot drop-boxes across the state.
Aside from these changes, the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights would also override recently-enacted laws requiring that voters present a photo I.D. before casting their ballot.
“We think that it’s important to enshrine these things in the [Ohio] Constitution,” said Deidra Reese, voter engagement director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. “We’ve had legislators who really want to turn the clock backwards in terms of voting rights.”
Yost has so far refused to authorize the petition. In December, for instance, the attorney general said that the proposal’s title was too problematic to be listed on the general election ballot.
“It has become commonplace to use the language of advocacy and advertising in initiated statutes and constitutional amendments,” Yost wrote in a letter to the defendants’ attorney in January. “Such language will be employed, no doubt, in the campaign around such matters. At least on the formal ballot, the language should be as neutral as possible.”
Supporters of the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights have already asked for the Supreme Court to weigh in by July 3rd, when the ballot language would have to be finalized and approved.
Now, Yost has asked the justices to critically assess any request for an expedited trial or decision, saying that the petition has yet to obtain the signatures needed to formally propose a constitutional amendment.
“Indeed, Relators’ petition is in its infancy and they offer no support for their blanket assertion that their petition will survive the constitutional hurdles in time for 2024 general election,” Yost wrote, suggesting that petition be re-written and submitted in another election cycle.
But the plaintiffs—including the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the NAACP, among others—have said that the Ohio Supreme Court should not permit Yost to “unduly delay” prospective voters’ access to the ballot.
Yost, though, insists that his office’s role in certifying petition language is “fair and truthful.”
“The importance of the Attorney General’s scope and authority to ensure that the summaries provided to voters are fair and truthful cannot be understated,” Yost said in a filing to the state Supreme Court.