Opposition wins in Reform Ohio Now

John Mccarthy and John Mccarthy

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Voters soundly rejected four issues yesterday that would have overhauled the way Ohio runs its elections, ending a high-pitched campaign that had hoped to capitalize on a Republican investment scandal and complaints about last year’#39;s presidential election.

The issues would have opened absentee balloting to all voters, lowered the cap on individual campaign contributions and put boards, instead of elected officials, in charge of drawing legislative and congressional districts and overseeing the state’#39;s elections.

Reform Ohio Now, a coalition of unions and other Democrat-leaning groups, wanted to wrest control of elections from state officeholders, now a virtual Republican monopoly. Republicans resisted, forming an opposition group known as Ohio First.

The opposition did its job, said former state Rep. Ed Jerse, a Euclid Democrat who directed the backers’#39; campaign.

“If I learned anything in the Legislature, it’#39;s a lot easier to kill something than to pass something,” Jerse said. “The other side is attacking you at every step.”

State Rep. Kevin DeWine, a suburban Dayton Republican who helped to drive the opposition, said voters were turned off by the complexity of the ballot issues, but that wasn’#39;t the whole story.

“When an issue gets trounced 70-30 it’#39;s not a matter of voter confusion, it’#39;s just a bad idea,” DeWine said. “I think that voters saw that this was funded by people who are not Ohioans and I think voters were able to see through that.”

With 69 percent of precincts reporting, the absentee ballot question was behind 64 percent-36 percent; campaign contributions, 68 percent-32 percent; redistricting and election oversight, both 71 percent-29 percent.

Gene Beaupre, a political scientist at Xavier University, said he doesn’#39;t believe the issues will be back soon, “not unless they can be more clearly stated and in shorter form and I don’#39;t know how you do that.”

The coalition backing the changes saw an opportunity amid an investment scandal that has cost the state $300 million and led to the conviction of Republican Gov. Bob Taft on ethics charges. The campaign came within a year of the 2004 election in Ohio, which gave President Bush his victory.

Proponents said changes were necessary to restore integrity to state elections and take big money out of politics. Opponents said the issues were nothing but a power grab by Democrats who have been on the political sidelines for 11 years.


State issues

Issue 1 will help to create and preserve jobs and stimulate economic growth in all areas of Ohio by improving local government infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and will expand Ohio’s research and develop capabilities to promote product innovation and commercialization, and allow for the preparation of sites and facilities for economic development in Ohio.

Issue 2 would have allowed any person qualified to vote to vote 35 days prior to the election by mail or in person at the county board of elections or additional locations designed by the board.

Issue 3 would have limited contributions to political candidates.

Issue 4 would have created a state redistricting commission with responsibility for creating legislative districts.

Issue 5 would have eliminated the Ohio Secretary of States power to oversee elections. It would have created an appointed board of nine members to administer statewide elections and oversee the existing county boards of elections.