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02-03-04: Mercer County judge must decide validity of petitions to repeal tax


A Columbus-based group seeks to squash a statewide effort to repeal a temporary 1-cent sales tax.
The group is protesting the validity of petitions, including those signed in Mercer County, that would take the tax repeal to the ballot in November.
County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Hinders planned to give the Mercer County Board of Elections an update this afternoon on the county’s involvement in the protest.
The Ohio General Assembly passed a temporary 1-cent sales tax last summer to supposedly avoid budget cuts. The increase was set to expire in June 2005.
An initiative, backed by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, seeks to remove the 1-cent sales tax early with a November ballot question, Mercer County Board of Elections Director Toni Slusser explained. Petitions have been circulated in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Another group, that opposes the removal of the tax, also is traveling county-to-county to protest the petitions. That group, headed by a Columbus attorney, has the backing of the Ohio County Commissioners Association, AARP and dozens of other state social service institutions.
The protesters have reviewed the 17 petitions and 386 signatures that came from Mercer County after the elections board checked and certified 16 of the petitions and declared 248 signatures valid.
The protesters filed a motion with the board contesting numerous aspects of the petitions, seeking to have all the petitions thrown out. They claim a list of errors, from duplicate names, incorrect information to unnumbered pages.
Hinders filed a motion before Mercer County Common Pleas Court last week, certifying the protest in this county. Elections board officials have no other duties in this issue, Slusser said. Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham is to decide the validity of the petitions.


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