A conservative national group that claims Ohio presents too many roadblocks to those who want to overturn bad laws has filed a challenge to the state’s referendum process.

To make its case, Woodbridge, Virginia-based Citizens in Charge says only two referendums qualified for Ohio’s ballot in the past 79 years. One is this year’s Issue 5, which seeks to overturn a law cracking down on payday lenders.

A Virginia-based organization said Wednesday it is asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional an Ohio law regulating the voter referendum process, and to permanently block its enforcement.

Citizens in Charge, a Woodbridge, Va. group, said it joined other Ohio plaintiffs in filing a complaint to overturn three sections of law that make it more difficult to place new statutes before voters for review.

“Ohio’s regulations are so draconian that only two referendums have qualified for the ballot in the last 79 years,” said Paul Jacob, the group’s president.

A group campaigning to keep a new payday lending law intact will get another opportunity to try to get an industry-backed referendum booted from the November ballot.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said she will appoint a hearing officer to decide whether consultants hired to collect signatures to get the payday lending measure on the ballot properly filed the petitions with her office.

If they did not, Brunner could invalidate the signatures and strip the referendum from the ballot. Her decision is expected by Sept. 25.

Frustrated by delays in getting the approval needed to begin collecting signatures for a ballot referendum, the payday-lending industry filed suit yesterday to cut Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers out of the petition process.

Ohio law gives Rogers up to 10 business days to review and certify as truthful a petition summary that the Reject HB 545 Committee will use to collect the 241,365 valid signatures it needs to get a referendum on the ballot.

A week before the election, some confusion remains over whether votes on one measure will count.

Issue 1, a statewide measure that calls for the repeal of an Ohio law that limits strip club operations, is subject to a Supreme Court ruling that could invalidate the Nov. 6 election results.

Next month’s ballot will be free of statewide issues - but don’t think voters in a state so pivotal to the 2008 election will get off so easily next year.