On Monday, I wrote about all the signatures the pro-public union group We Are Ohio collected in order to bring Governor John Kasich’s newly-minted collective bargaining bill up for a public vote. Despite the extremely low threshold of 231,147 signatures to subject the law to a referendum, We Are Ohio turned in 1.3 million signatures.
Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced the collective bargaining law would appear on the November ballot, and released the results of the state’s signature validation process. Husted announced that “more than 915,000 of the signatures were valid.”
As Mike Antonucci points out at the Intercepts blog, while 915,000 is an impressive number, it falls well short of the 1.3 million signatures turned in. In fact, over 25% of all the signatures submitted by the unions (351,925 total) were found to be invalid. As Antonucci points out, some of Ohio’s largest counties had some of the highest percentages of invalid signatures:
Of the 159,946 signatures submitted from Franklin County, 48,972 were invalid (30.6%). In Lucas County, 34.4% of the signatures were invalid. In Cuyahoga County, 36.2% were invalid, and in Hamilton County 49.9% were invalid.
Most of the signatures that were tossed were because the person who signed the petition lived in a different county than the one in which the papers were circulated. Presumably, those 351,925 were easy to check. But what about the 915,000 that remain? If a petitioner has an error rate of 25% right off the bat (and about 50% in some counties), how much faith are we supposed to have in the signatures that haven’t been disqualified? If you had a friend who lied to you 25% of the time, wouldn’t you look askance at the 75% of things he swore to you were true?
It’s as if the unions are panning for signatures – just throw some giant rocks onto the secretary of state’s plate, and hope that when all the sand and gravel is sorted out (at great cost to the taxpayer), there’s enough gold there to force a referendum. There’s just no way any state department can sort though and validate 1.3 million signatures with any kind of accuracy in such a short time span.
In order to streamline the process, there should be a penalty for submitting hundreds of thousands of bad signatures. Make the petitioner reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of counting all the bogus signatures. Dock the unions one valid signature for every two invalid ones. Punish each circulator who turns in bad signatures with making them watch 10 hours of whatever Keith Olbermann’s show is now called (which would quadruple his audience, come to think of it.)
In any event, the current signature process in Ohio is like aiming a fire hose at the secretary of state’s staffers and asking them to catch the water with Dixie cups. If this process works for unions in Ohio, there’s no doubt it will be employed here in Wisconsin, where only around 500,000 signatures are required to force a recall of Governor Scott Walker in 2012.