Updated Thu, Feb 13, 2014 3:31 pm
Athens County election officials have asked for written legal opinions on whether an alteration made to an initiative petition would prevent the anti-fracking measure from being on the November ballot. Indications are, it would not.
The Messenger reported earlier that the Athens Bill of Rights Committee wanted to put an anti-fracking measure on the May primary election ballot, but was told Ohio law requires initiative petitions to be on the general election ballot.
However, the petition itself says it is for the May ballot, which prompted election officials to seek legal opinions from the Ohio Secretary of State's Office and Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn on whether that would be a fatal flaw to the petition being on the November ballot.
Elections Director Debbie Quivey said both have given verbal opinions that it would not be a fatal flaw, but she said written opinions have been requested.
Quivey said she expects the initiative petition to be discussed at the election board's next meeting, which is Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the elections board office. The Athens Bill of Rights Committee has asked the board to make an exception and put it on the November ballot.
Blackburn has said the elections board does not have the authority to do that, because Ohio law is clear that initiative petitions must be on the general election ballot.
Election workers have already determined that the petition has the required number of valid signatures. However, action is still needed from the elections board to actually put it on the November ballot.
This is the second attempt by the Athens Bill of Rights Committee to place a ban on the oil and gas drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing (referred to as fracking) and associated practices. The group collected enough signatures to get an initiative on last November's ballot, but a protest was filed by some residents. The Athens County Board of Elections voted to uphold the challenge, preventing it from being placed on last fall's ballot.
Quivey said that as of noon Thursday, no protest had been filed regarding this latest effort.
The two proposed initiatives differ. The first one sought a ban within the city and its "jurisdiction." The new attempt focuses strictly within the city limits.
Athens Bill of Rights Committee asserts that the initiative is needed to protect the city water supply from potential harm from deep-shale hydraulic fracturing and fracking waste disposal activities.