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Payday loan signatures re-examined

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COLUMBUS — Supporters of a recently signed law that would restrict payday lenders will get another chance to boot from the November ballot an initiative that would overturn part of the law, Ohio’s elections chief said.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said Friday that she’ll appoint a hearing officer to decide later this month whether consultants hired to collect signatures to place the measure on the ballot properly filed the petitions.

Gov. Ted Strickland in June signed a law that would restrict the annual percentage rate that lenders can charge to 28 percent, and limit the number of loans customers can take to four per year. It is one of the strictest payday lending laws in the nation.

Industry backed advocates last month turned in 422,000 petition signatures to place their initiative on the ballot.

Brunner still must certify them, and supporters of the ballot measure need a little more than 241,000 signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to qualify.

The measure would repeal the law’s cap on interest, allowing lenders to once again charge rates and fees that amount to a 391 annual percentage rate.

Anyone supervising the collection of signatures must file a Form 5 with the state that lists the names and addresses of signature gatherers and the names of their employers. Brunner’s office said it can’t find evidence the form was filed by Arno Political Consultants, a California firm hired by lending industry to collect a lot of its signatures.

Neglecting to file the Form 15 is a misdemeanor, but it can also result in having a measure tossed from the ballot, said Sandy Theis, a spokeswoman for a committee that backs the new law and filed a public records request to see the form.

“Throw them off the ballot, and if you can’t do that, then at least throw out the signatures collected by this group,” Theis said. 



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