Ohio to vote on opting out of health law

Associated Press / July 27, 2011

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Voters will get the chance to decide whether Ohio can opt out of the national health care overhaul after the state’s top election official said yesterday that opponents of the federal law have enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Secretary of State Jon Husted determined that supporters of the amendment, which would prohibit Ohio from participating in the federal Affordable Care Act, had gathered 427,000 valid signatures. They had submitted more than 546,000 and needed roughly 358,000 validated to make it onto the ballot.

The amendment will be alongside a measure to repeal a contentious new collective bargaining law. Advocates expect that the two proposals will drive people to the polls, which are typically undervisited in off-year elections.

A liberal policy group, however, said it could file a challenge to inclusion of the health care measure, because it was still finding invalid signatures in its review.

A coalition of Tea Party movement groups, small-government advocates, and religious groups gathered the signatures to get the health care measure on the ballot and plan to mount a statewide campaign in support of it.

The coalition has more than 35,000 volunteers, an “army of grass-roots support,’’ ready to mobilize to raise money to turn out voters, said Jeff Longstreth, campaign manager for Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom.

The measure would change the Ohio Constitution to prohibit any federal, state, or local law from forcing Ohio residents, employers, or health care providers to participate in a health care system. It also would prevent the state from enacting a Massachusetts-style health care program, in which the state requires a minimum level of insurance coverage.