Government of Ohio

Government of Ohio
The Rhodes State Office Tower adjacent to the Statehouse

The government of the state of Ohio comprises three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. Its basic structure is set forth in the Ohio Constitution.


Executive Branch

The executive branch of Ohio government comprises six officers elected statewide for four-year terms, all on a partisan ballot:

Legislative Branch

Ohio's state Capitol Building

The legislative branch, the Ohio General Assembly, is made up of two houses: the senate and the house of representatives. The house of representatives is composed of 99 members elected from single-member districts of equal population. Each of the 33 senate districts is formed by combining three house districts. Senators serve four-year staggered terms and representatives serve two-year terms.

In order to be enacted into law, a bill must be adopted by both houses of the assembly and signed by the governor. If the governor vetoes a bill, the assembly can override the veto with a three-fifths supermajority of both houses. A bill will also become a law if the governor fails to sign or veto it within 10 days of its being presented.

The Legislative Service Commission is one of several legislative agencies. It serves as a source for legal expertise and staffing. The commission drafts proposed legislation.

In addition to the General Assembly, laws in Ohio may be enacted through the initiative process.

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch is headed by the supreme court, which has one chief justice and six associate justices, each elected to staggered six-year terms.

There are several other levels of elected judiciary in the Ohio court system:

  • State court of claims, which has jurisdiction over all civil actions against the State of Ohio in situations in which the state has waived its sovereign immunity.
  • State courts of appeal (12 district appeals courts): These are the intermediate appellate courts.
  • County courts of common pleas: 88 county common pleas courts – These are the principal courts of first instance for civil and criminal matters. In populous areas, there are often several divisions, such as general, juvenile, probate, and domestic relations.
  • Municipal courts and county courts – these court primarily handle minor matters, such as traffic adjudication and other misdemeanor and small claims.

Judges in Ohio are generally elected, except for the Court of Claims, for which judges sit by assignment of the chief justice. When there are temporary vacancies in elected judgeships, those vacancies are also filled by assignment by the chief justice.


The General Assembly, with the approval of the governor, draws the U.S. congressional district lines for Ohio's 18 seats in the United States House of Representatives. The Ohio Apportionment Board draws state legislative district lines in Ohio.

State Board of Education

The Ohio Department of Education is run by the Ohio State Board of Education, which has 11 elected members and eight appointed members. The state is divided into 11 districts by combining three contiguous Ohio Senate districts. The governor appoints eight members. All serve four year terms. The elected members' terms are staggered so that half of the board is elected in each even-numbered year. Vacancies in the elected membership are filled by appointment by the governor. The chairman of the Ohio House of Representatives Education Committee and his or her counterpart in the Ohio State Senate are ex officio members. The board employs a Superintendent of Public Instruction, who runs the Ohio Department of Education.

State politics

Local government

There are also several levels of local government in Ohio. Elections for county officials are held in even-numbered years, while elections for officials in the municipalities, townships, and local boards of education are held in odd-numbered years.

County Government

Ohio is divided into 88 counties. Ohio law defines a structure for county government, although each county may choose to define its own. Summit County and Cuyahoga County have chosen an alternate structure, while all of the other counties have a structure that includes the following elected officers:

  • Three county commissioners (the County Board of Commissioners)
  • County sheriff: The highest law enforcement officer in the county. Many cities and villages, and even some townships, have their own police forces which take over the sheriff's patrolling and response duties in their own areas, but the sheriff remains responsible for the remaining areas of the county. In some counties with large municipalities, the sheriff may have no patrolling and response duties, but the sheriff remains responsible for running the county jail, and acting as an officer of the local courts (serving warrants, transporting prisoners, acting as bailiff, etc.)
  • County coroner: Responsible for determining the cause of death in suspicious circumstances. Is the only person in the county with the authority to arrest the sheriff.
  • County auditor
  • County treasurer
  • County clerk of courts
  • County prosecutor: The equivalent of a district attorney in other states. The prosecutor is charged with acting on behalf of the state in criminal matters and also acts as the county government's legal counsel. In rural areas, the elected prosecutor may choose to take a reduced salary and act as a "part-time" prosecutor. In such cases, the prosecutor may offer private legal services, but only in non-criminal matters.
  • County engineer
  • County recorder: Keeps records of changes in title of real property within the county.

See also: Ohio county government

Municipal Government

In Ohio, there are two kinds of incorporated municipalities, cities and villages. If a municipality has five thousand or more residents as of the last federal census it is a city, otherwise it is a village.[1] Each municipality chooses its own form of government, but most have elected mayors and city councils or city commissions. City governments provide much more extensive services than county governments, such as police forces and professional (as opposed to volunteer) fire departments. Additional municipal services are often financed by local income taxes that townships cannot impose except in a Joint Economic Development District with a municipality. Not all municipalities levy income taxes; those that do range from 0.3% in the Village of Indian Hill to 3.0% in Parma Heights [1].

Township Government

The territory of each county is divided into townships. There are more than 1,000 townships in Ohio, ranging from the very small with only a few hundred inhabitants (e.g. Washington in Warren County) to gigantic townships with tens of thousands of residents and bigger than most cities of the state (e.g. Colerain and West Chester). All land in Ohio is nominally part of some township. However, in many cases, a municipal government has chosen to withdraw from the township as a governmental jurisdiction, by establishing a paper township coextensive with the municipality. As a result, there are many townships that do not exist as functioning legal jurisdictions (e.g. City of Cincinnati is in Millcreek Township but does not exist separately).

Townships have four elected officials: A three member board of trustees and a clerk. All are elected to four-year terms in non-partisan elections.

Local Boards of Education

There are more than 600 city, local, and exempted village school districts providing K-12 education in Ohio. The borders of the school district do not strictly follow county, township, or municipal borders. A school district can exist in multiple townships, municipalities, or counties. Each school district is headed by an elected board of education which has direct authority over the local schools and appoints the local superintendent of schools. There are also about four dozen joint vocation school districts which are separate from the K-12 districts. Although most tax-financed schools are funded through property taxes, districts may also impose income taxes [2], which are up to 1.75% of earned income.

In 1914, the Ohio General Assembly created county boards of education to provide support services to local school districts. Subsequently, in 1995 the county boards of education were renamed Educational Service Centers and allowed to merge with neighboring ESCs to form regional agencies. Each ESC is supervised by a locally elected governing board and headed by a superintendent. The majority of each ESC's operating funds are generated from fees paid by school districts which contract with the ESC to provide services [3].


See also

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