Local officials and the Ohio Secretary of State's office have agreed on ballot language for the November referendum on the development of wind farms in the county.
People who want wind farm development banned will need to vote "Yes" on the issue, approving of Crawford County commissioners' vote to restrict development in unincorporated portions of the county. Wind farm supporters will vote "No."
Here's the ballot language, which was released by Kim Rudd, director of the Crawford County Board of Elections, on Wednesday morning:
"To approve the designation of the unincorporated portions of Crawford County as a restricted area prohibiting large or economically significant wind farms as defined by the Ohio Revised Code as passed by the board of commissioners of Crawford County in Resolution 2022-200.
"Shall the resolution enacting the designation prohibiting large or economically significant wind farms be approved?"
Rudd said she worked with Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall and members of the elections board in developing the ballot language, which then had to be approved by the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
Crawford County Commissioners' decision could be overturned
On May 5, commissioners passed a resolution blocking wind farm development in all unincorporated areas of the county for 10 years, effectively barring construction of Honey Creek Wind, Apex Clean Energy's planned 300-megawatt industrial wind farm. But under the terms of Senate Bill 52, which became law last year, wind farm supporters were able to submit petitions forcing a November referendum vote on the issue, which could overturn the commissioners' action.
Honey Creek Action, a political action committee backed by Apex, submitted petitions with 2,615 signatures, Rudd said at an Aug. 16 meeting of the elections board. Of those, 1,692 were ruled valid — well above the 1,181 required under the rules set out by SB 52.
At that meeting, the elections board voted unanimously in favor of putting the referendum on the ballot — but the issue's ballot language remained up in the air.
'We're the guinea pig for Ohio'
Often, elections boards rely on templates provided by the state in developing ballot language, or look to see how other counties have handled similar issues. But Crawford County will be the first in the state to vote on a Senate Bill 52 referendum.
"We're the guinea pig for Ohio," Rudd said at the August meeting.
In developing the ballot language, officials had to consider the state's guidelines for referendums as well as the requirements outlined in Senate Bill 52, she said.
"It's been a learning experience for all of us," Rudd said Wednesday.
For months, wind farm opponents have used distinctive yellow signs that say "No." Supporters have posted signs that say "Yes," often with the "Y" formed by the arms of a wind turbine. For the referendum vote, all of that will change.
"It isn't the language we wanted, I'll just say that," Rudd said. "We did I think five submissions where we had to resubmit it until we could agree. Referendums tend to be very confusing on how they have to be written, but we have to go by the law."
Elections board preparing for Nov. 8
Now that the ballot language has been approved, Rudd and her team have a lot of work to do to prepare for the Nov. 8 general election.
"We're programming today, so as soon as we get programmed and get everything checked, we'll hang ballot proofs for 24 hours and then we'll go from there," she said. "We have to have ballots ready for Sept. 23, UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) ballots go out."
Oct. 11 is the deadline to register to vote in the election.
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