Lee Lybarger became a walking example of individual political action, he said, when he turned his exercise regimen into a mission to repeal Senate Bill 5.
The Delaware city resident and former social worker began petitioning door-to-door in June. By the end of the month, he had collected about 400 signatures.
As a 77-year-old retiree, Lybarger said he would not be directly affected by the collective bargaining bill. Instead, he said he was motivated by a “deep sense of values for social justice and fairness.”
“SB 5 would restrict the ability to bargain for wages, and that’s a basic right,” said Lybarger.
“It was something that I could do something about,” he continued. “Rather than voice my opinions or write a letter to the editor, I can go out there and get signatures for the petition. It was a hands-on experience.”
The result was significant, according to Melissa Fazekas of the We Are Ohio (WAO) campaign.
“Some have really gone above and beyond,” said Fazekas. “(Lybarger) would be one of them.”
WAO reported that more than 17,000 Delaware County signatures were collected, a little less than 25 percent of those who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
The Delaware County Board of Elections said the unofficial count from the Secretary of State was around 12,000 signatures.
The figures were not as high as those in Franklin County, which WAO reported had about 157,500 signatures and 41 percent of the gubernatorial voters. Still, Chip Shannon of WAO considered Delaware’s numbers “remarkable.”
It was more than what Lybarger said he expected.
“What I learned from this is that there are far more people who work for the government — be they teachers, fire fighters, policemen, nurses — then I ever realized,” he said.
Of that group, Lybarger said he knew a lot who “voted for the governor are now having buyer’s remorse.”
That was what the petition was all about, Lybarger said: putting the issue on the ballot.
“You’re not voting for or against it,” Lybarger said he told people before they signed the petition. “You can do that in the fall.”
In order to get the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot, the Ohio Secretary of State had to receive about 231,000 signatures by June 30. Of those votes, three percent had to come from at least 44 counties.
A day before deadline, WAO presented about 1.3 million signatures. The three-percent threshold was at least doubled in all 88 counties, according to WAO.
Lybarger said he was “overwhelmed” upon learning the statewide results. He compared the experience to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“The sleeping giant has been awakened,” Lybarger said.
“People should be civically involved in politics,” he continued. “It’s not a dirty business. These sort of issues are ones people should be aware of.”
Even with WAO’s record-breaking number of petition signatures, Lybarger said he was unsure if they would have an impact on the vote or not.
He is not making any predictions before Nov. 8, he added.