COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Opponents of an Ohio law that effectively bans storefront sweepstakes parlors have fallen more than 70,000 signatures short of the needed to place a repeal request on the November 2014 ballot.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said that 160,008 of the nearly 434,000 signatures submitted by the Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs were valid, well below the more than 231,000 required. They also failed to get the required number of signatures from at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.
"You could get enough signatures is just a handful of counties but you want to make sure that you have representation across the state," said Husted spokesman Matt McClellan.
The group has 10 days to submit additional signatures. If it succeeds, enforcement of the law would be suspended until next November's vote. In the 14-month interim, so-called internet cafes could operate in the state. If they don't the issue is dead.
Ohioans Against Illegal Gambling, which is backed by casinos, had urged county elections boards to carefully scrutinize the signatures. The group has claimed that signature gatherers misrepresented the referendum's purpose.
The referendum effort on House Bill 7 is the first statewide issue to be submitted since Senate Bill 47 took effect, which changed the ballot initiative process. It blocked supporters from gathering additional signatures during the validation process.
"Tomorrow, hundred of workers will begin gathering signatures to protect the thousands of Ohio jobs in the internet sweepstakes cafe industry. Nearly every statewide initiative in Ohio falls short of the signatures necessary on the first try, which is exactly why the law allows a ten day period to gather more. Luckily, since polling shows 80 percent of Ohioans oppose banning internet sweepstakes cafes, there are many people willing to sign," said Matt Dole, a spokesman for the campaign.