Last updated: September 06. 2013 4:11PM - 2249 Views

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ANN SANNER

Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Opponents of Ohio’s new collective bargaining law said Friday they have collected hundreds of thousands more signatures than needed in their effort to let voters decide whether to repeal the measure this fall.

The We Are Ohio campaign has gathered more than 714,000 signatures, said Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for the group. Those still must be checked by the state’s election chief to ensure enough are legitimate.

The group is making a final petition push in the coming weeks. It needs more than 231,000 valid signatures by June 30 to get the issue on the November ballot. The signatures have to be from at least 44 of the 88 counties.

Fazekas said the group was confident it had met the signature and the county requirements. “We will have this on the ballot in November,” she said.

About 10,000 volunteers and 300 paid workers have been circulating petitions over the past two months. About 75 percent of the names were collected by volunteers, Fazekas said.

The campaign still expects thousands more to roll in, she said. Opponents plan to have signing events this weekend.

The law signed by Gov. John Kasich in late March bans public employee strikes and restricts collective bargaining rights for more than 350,000 teachers, police officers, state employees and others. While unions can continue to negotiate wages, they cannot bargain on health care, sick time or pension benefits.

The updated signature numbers come a day after Kasich, a first-term Republican, urged his supporters to help defend the contentious collective bargaining law.

In an email Thursday, Kasich directed his supporters to a website for Building a Better Ohio, a coalition that recently formed to help keep the new law in place.

“Here’s your opportunity to join us in restoring fairness to Ohio’s taxpayers,” Kasich wrote, the first sign of his involvement with the group. He has said he plans to play a visible role in defending the law.

The Ohio Democratic Party has also been ramping up its push to get people involved in the expected referendum battle.

In an email sent Thursday on behalf of the party, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald asked people to donate money to the repeal effort.

“Ohio may be on our side, but that won’t stop millions of special interest dollars from outside Ohio that will flood the airwaves with misleading ads,” the email read.

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