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Ohio court says anti-Obamacare amendment can be on November ballot

By Jo Ingles

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would block implementation of President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul law can appear on the ballot this fall.

The ruling came on the same day that a federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down the requirement in the law that Americans either carry health insurance or face penalties.

The state high court unanimously struck down a suit brought by ProgressOhio, a left-leaning think tank, that challenged the validity of some petition signatures that were used to put the issue on the statewide ballot this November.

The court ruled that ProgressOhio failed to prove that backers of the proposed amendment did not collect the 385,245 valid signatures needed.

More than 426,000 signatures have been certified by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

The ruling means Ohioans will be able to vote on a measure this fall that, among other things, would allow the state to opt out of the federal requirement to purchase health insurance.

"We are very pleased the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the validity of the signatures and will allow voters to have a choice this fall if health care decisions should be made by patients and doctors or politicians in Washington D.C.," said Jeff Longstreth, campaign manager for Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom, the group backing the ballot issue.

Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio, blamed resistance from some of Ohio's 88 county boards of elections for the court's decision.

"Clearly our review was hampered by 40 percent of the counties refusing to respond to a public records request in the allotted time for review," Rothenberg said.

The proposed amendment is one of several challenges to the so-called "individual mandate" contained in the 2010 law.

Twenty-six states -- including Ohio -- have sued to block the law.

Ohioans will also vote this fall on whether to allow a recently passed controversial collective bargaining law to be enacted and will decide whether to raise the retirement age for judges.

(Editing by James B. Kelleher and Ellen Wulfhorst)

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