Reporter Chris Kick also contributed to this story.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Ohioans for Humane Farms, 402,275 is the magic number of signatures it needs to gather by June 30 to get a proposal on the November ballot regarding minimum care regulations for the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to implement.
As of June 23, Ohioans for Humane Farms is reporting it has gathered the minimum number of signatures needed, however the group is still working to reach its goal of around 600,000.
The plan is for the group to deliver the signatures to the secretary of state’s office next week. Once, they are received, the state office will have 20 days to verify the signatures. This means determining if individuals signing the petitions are registered voters and Ohio residents.
If the group comes up short for any reason, it will have 10 days to go back out and get the signatures needed. The signatures must come from at least 44 counties in Ohio.
If enough valid signatures have been gathered, then the issue will proceed straight to the November ballot.
Karen Minton, campaign manager for Ohioans for Humane Farms, said it is impossible for the organization to tell how many people were out gathering signatures or how many locations were used.
She added the group started with 6,000 volunteers, but many recruited friends and family to help them so the number has grown significantly.
“We are pretty heartened by the volunteer efforts,” Minton said.
However, she said she has never heard of some of the accusations made about ways signature gatherers garnered signatures.
“We don’t agree with strong arm tactics at all. You don’t need it. Once the person reads the petition, the language speaks for itself,” Minton said.
She added she has heard of harassment coming toward signature gatherers from paid opposition members as well.
When questioned why the Humane Society of the United States fought a court battle to use signature gatherers from other states, she said it is easy to see why people want to help do the work.
“This is happening nationwide. Animal welfare reform is going on across the country and we welcomed the volunteers to help,” Minton said.
Minton said the signature gathering will continue through next week.
“We have been pretty excited with this work. It has been one of the largest volunteer efforts in the state. We are glad to see how many signed the petition to show they care,” Minton added.
Ohio Director of Agriculture Robert Boggs, who also is chairman of the newly created Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, said he and the board will go on doing the work Ohioans asked them to do last fall — protect the food supply, maintain production and set standards.
“What HSUS does, they’re going to do, so we just do our job and not worry about it,” he said.
Boggs said he has spoken with HSUS’ top executive, Wayne Pacelle, and there actually are many areas where the board and HSUS are in agreement.
He encourages HSUS to communicate its concerns to the board, which has held several public listening sessions, but saw a very small turnout of HSUS representatives.
If an agreement can be made, it would likely save both parties a lot of money in campaign efforts this fall.
“It’d be wasteful for us, in such an economically (difficult) time, to spend millions of dollars on a campaign, when we might be able to (settle) through negotiations,” he said.
But he does not agree with current provisions in the HSUS petition, and said any agreements need to satisfy the concerns of Ohio commodity groups and Ohio citizens, as well as the standards board.
“There’s a big difference between compromise and selling out,” he said. “I do believe HSUS would like to find some common ground and reach a fair compromise.”