How to Gather 1.3 Million Signatures

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed SB 5, a new law restricting public sector collective bargaining, plans were already underway to place the question as a referendum on the state ballot. Unions put together a campaign, named it We Are Ohio, and set out to gather the 231,150 signatures needed to accomplish the task.

And there can be no doubt they were hugely successful. They ultimately delivered a state record 1.3 million signatures to easily qualify the referendum. The number was so large, it became the lead story in the state press, it was trumpeted by the National Education Association, and became the focus of We Are Ohio‘s web presence.

This week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced SB 5 would appear on the November ballot, and released the results of its validation process. Husted said “more than 915,000 of the signatures were valid.”


While still greatly exceeding the threshold to qualify the measure, more than one of every four signatures gathered by the “10,000 volunteers and some paid workers” were invalid.

The secretary of state’s worklog reveals the breakdown of valid and invalid signatures for each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Some of the 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.

The only basis for the state to invalidate a signature is that the person signing is not a registered voter of the county in which the signatures were gathered. This happened almost 352,000 times.