FrackFree Dealt Blow with Husted Decision

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A ruling Thursday by Secretary of State Jon Husted appears to have preempted any attempt by FrackFree Mahoning Valley to place another charter amendment question on the November ballot this fall.

Husted ruled Thursday in favor of protests filed with his office that questioned the validity of county charter ballot proposals in Athens, Fulton and Medina counties.

A copy of his decision was transmitted to board of elections offices in all 88 Ohio counties.

FrackFree Mahoning Valley submitted petitions Aug. 3 to the Mahoning County Board of Elections seeking a fifth vote by city voters on a measure that would ban hydraulic fracturing inside city limits.

As part of his decision, Husted said the ballot questions in Athens, Fulton and Medina counties relating to oil and gas exploration represented an attempt to circumvent state law in a manner the courts have already found to be in violation of the Ohio Constitution.

“The issue of whether local communities can get around state laws on fracking has already been litigated,” Husted said in a statement. “Allowing these proposals to proceed will only serve a false promise that wastes taxpayer’s time and money and will eventually end in sending the charters to certain death in the courts.”

Ohio Revised Code gives Husted, the state’s chief elections officer, the power to determine whether the ballot proposals and petitions should qualify for the ballot.

In response, FrackFree activist Lynn Anderson said Husted “is not empowered to strip people of their inalienable right to alter and reform their government to protect their communities.”

Voters for Ballot Integrity, a business and labor group formed in opposition to FrackFree Mahoning Valley’s efforts, announced in July its intentions to stop a fifth vote here on the charter amendment.

Like Husted, the group cited an Ohio Supreme Court decision in February that municipal ordinances must defer to state statutes if, among other reasons, the municipal statute or ordinance conflicts with state law.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.