No-Hunting Referenda Victories 2010 – A Winning Formula

By Lane Ferrante

Last year, the typical “deer-overpopulation” dilemma came to Ottawa Hills, Ohio. The community was divided and the village council leaned towards lethal measures to address the perceived problem. They decided that the best course of action would be to hire sharp-shooters. A long-standing ordinance which prohibited lethal weapons from being discharged in the village was repealed so they could move forward and contract with a wildlife extermination company.

Rob Slater, an Ottawa Hills resident and member of the League of Humane Voters (LOHV-Ohio), immediately began organizing a referendum to repeal the ordinance.

A referendum is a proposal to repeal a law that was enacted by the legislature. For a referendum to get on the ballot in the upcoming election in the village of Ottawa Hills at least 10% of the number of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election had to sign a petition requesting that the referendum be placed on the ballot.

He developed a simple three-step strategy which has now become an established formula.
1) Write the referendum
2) Get the required number of signatures on petitions to get the referendum on the ballot
3) promote the referendum among the voters prior to the election
A team of attorneys quickly drafted the referendum language.

He set out to collect the requisite signatures:
He distributed lawn signs to home-owners favoring the referendum. The signs included the website so that residents could learn about the petition online and get truthful and updated information on the issue. The website enabled Rob to communicate with the residents and instruct them: Citizens were asked to go to a designated home to sign the petition.

Two other LOHV members and I drove into Ottawa Hills last fall and we were thrilled to see the bright orange signs all over the village.

The first weekend, I was at the home where the petition signatures were being collected, and was interviewed by TV media. I had been interviewed by the Toledo Blade the week before. The doorbell did not stop ringing!

Some people went door-to-door. It didn’t take long at all before they gathered the required signatures. When they submitted the petition they had 500 more than needed! As a general rule-of-thumb, there should be at least 300 extra signatures since the Board of Elections will throw some out.

The referendum organizers in Ottawa Hills sent a letter to all residents explaining what a YES or NO vote meant on Issue 8. They issued a great press release and had very good media coverage before the vote. They also had people put their signs back out, and gave them a sticker to add which said Issue 8 with a slash through it. The referendum language was written so that “No” vote was required to defeat the ordinances that had been passed.

Repeating Rob’s Formula

When the Broadview Heights City Council passed an ordinance to allow bow hunting, Susan Fowler worked with the advice of the Ottawa Hills group and immediately began organizing a referendum! The Ottawa Hills webmaster helped put up the Broadview Heights website and generally the same steps were taken as in Ottawa Hills.

The required signatures for a referendum to be on a ballot in Broadview turned out to be the same as in Ottawa Hills; they also needed 10 percent of the electors from the previous gubernatorial election. We all hit the streets, gathering signatures and when the petition was submitted we had in excess of 500 signatures!

Broadview Hts. was not as lucky as Ottawa Hills in all respects. The media coverage was very slanted against us. Nevertheless their persistent, unwavering effort paid off.

The Results:
In Ottawa Hills there were 2300 voters: 1250 no votes; 1025 yes votes Percentage wise it was 54% – 46%.

Happily, it was pretty much the same percent margin in Broadview Heights. Again, there was a 19% difference in our favor!

Eat your Wheaties, you’ll need energy for this, but it’s well worth it. Don’t worry if you’re asked to leave while getting your petition signatures. I was asked to leave the post office twice and the local grocery store parking lot. We just continued our efforts at other locations.

Lesson learned: If your state permits referenda or initiatives, then organizing to pass or repeal legislation to advance animal protection can be powerful tools.
Lane Ferrante is State Director of the League of Humane Voters of Ohio -LOHV-OH website:
For an understanding of the differences between referenda and ballot initiatives, please Google IRI-Initiative & Referendum Institute at the U. of Southern California.


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561