2005 Amendments

Filed under: — tkm November 6, 2005 @ 4:0 am
  • VOTE
    NOVEMBER 8, 2005

    posted by tkm

    ISSUE 1 – $2 billion bond proposal

    The question—Should voters trust Taft with “2 billion more dollars”?

    Navigating the Ins and Outs of state government
    Dayton Daily News September 11, 2005
    by William Hershey

    Ohio’s two major political parties squared off in court last week.

    The showdown didn’t pit Republicans against Democrats. It didn’t involve Libertarians, Greens or Socialist Workers.
    Forget those labels.

    In Ohio right now, the two major parties are the Ins and the Outs. The Outs, by the way, won in court, but more on that after an In-and-Out primer.

    The Ins are the establishment Republicans who run Ohio and think the status quo is, more or less, just fine.

    Ins include Gov. Bob Taft, Attorney General Jim Petro, Auditor Betty Montgomery, House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering and Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland.

    Sen. Jeff Jacobson, R-Butler Twp., at times an Out when he served in the House, now is an In. Jacobson, the No. 2 leader in the Senate as president pro tem, has the same vested interest in keeping things the way they are as do all the other Ins.

    The Outs?

    Well, they’re diverse and interesting, which doesn’t necessarily mean that their ideas are any better than the Ins’. They have one thing in common – a desire to shake things up.

    As secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, has a title that seems to make him an In. But much of the time he’s an Out. That’s because, among other things, Blackwell is pushing a constitutional amendment to limit state and local government spending. In his role as secretary of state, he has certified the amendment to appear on next year’s ballot.

    The Outs also include the Democrats, a stray Republican or two, labor groups and self-styled good-government organizations that appear to have succeeded in putting four constitutional amendments on the Nov. 8 ballot to overhaul Ohio’s election system. These Outs formed Reform Ohio Now.

    Their amendments would:

  • Establish a nine-member board to replace the secretary of state in administering elections.
  • Allow Ohioans to vote absentee without a reason.
  • Lower state campaign contribution limits.
  • Create a board to approve state legislative and congressional districts.
  • Their proposed amendments, like the Blackwell-backed proposal, would shake up the status quo.  
     The Ins – in the person of former Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale – sued to keep the Outs’ amendments off the ballot. Their lawsuit charged that Blackwell, as secretary of state, incorrectly told county boards of election that the people who gathered signatures from registered voters to put the issues on the ballot didn’t have to be Ohio residents. On Thursday lawyers for each side argued Thursday before the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals.While the suit targeted the signatures gathered by Reform Ohio Now, an adverse ruling also could have affected the signatures gathered by Citizens for Tax Reform, the Blackwell-led group that has put the amendment limiting state and local government spending on next year’s ballot.

    The courtroom reflected the division between the Ins and Outs.

    Sitting at the table for the Ins were Finan’s lawyer, Quintin Lindsmith, and state solicitor Douglas Cole, representing Attorney General Petro. The court granted Petro his request to join the lawsuit on Finan’s side.

    Petro – at least the attorney general’s office – ended up on both sides.

    As the state’s top legal officer, Petro also had to represent Blackwell as secretary of state. The Outs’ table included Larry James, the special counsel Petro named to defend the secretary of state, as well as two lawyers for the Outs – Don McTigue, representing Reform Ohio Now and David Langdon, representing Citizens for Tax Reform.

    On Friday a three-judge panel unanimously threw out the suit.

    There’s no time for an appeal, so Jacobson, spokesman for the Ins, said his side would win the battle in the court of public opinion and defeat the issues at the polls.

    He’s already busy casting the Outs’ campaign as an effort by out-of-state liberals – major support for the drive to get the issues on the ballot came from donors in New York and California – to “hijack our elections.

    “Herb Asher, professor emeritus of political science at the Ohio State University and an Out leader, has a different take. The campaign, Asher said, pits “the agents of change” against “those who believe the status quo is just fine.

    “Voters have until Nov. 8 to examine the amendments and decide for themselves.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Issue 2 – Allow Ohioans to vote early or to vote by mail.
    What is WRONG with Issue 2? Ohio law currently contains generous absentee voting provisions and this proposal loosens those standards and opens the door for massive voter fraud. This proposal would clutter the Constitution with election regulations on mail or absentee ballots, and doesn’t contain safeguards to ensure that only eligible and qualified voters would be able to use these procedures.

    What is WRONG with Issue 2? Ohio law currently contains generous absentee voting provisions and this proposal loosens those standards and opens the door for massive voter fraud. This proposal would clutter the Constitution with election regulations on mail or absentee ballots, and doesn’t contain safeguards to ensure that only eligible and qualified voters would be able to use these procedures.

    Issue 3 – Put tough limits on campaign contributions, reducing the influence of money in politics
    Would simply restore campaign contribution limits that were already in place until the General Assembly raised them last year.

    Candidates for statewide office could accept $2,000 from an individual and $1,000 from political action committees under Issue 3. For legislative candidates, the same limits would be $1,000 and $500. Corporate donations would not be allowed. The higher limits enacted last year set a $10,000 limit for statewide candidates and permit corporate donations.

    If the state’s Coingate scandal served any useful purpose, it should be to remind Ohioans of the harm that can grow out of the buying and selling of influence.

    Issue 4 – Create an independent redistricting commission to take the power to draw legislative districts out of the hands of partisan lawmakers

    Issue 4 would curb political gerrymandering
    Cincinnati Post October 27, 2005
    By Michael E. Solimine
     The practice of drawing legislative districts to include or exclude certain groups of voters, or gerrymandering, has been around for two centuries. The colorful term is taken from the efforts of Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts in 1810, to draw a bizarrely shaped district that favored his party – one derided by his critics as resembling a salamander. So gerrymandering has a long but not distinguished history, since it has been long criticized as a practice that seeks to game our election system to the advantage of one party or the other.It is impossible to limit all forms of gerrymandering, but Issue Four will place limits on the practice in Ohio, and for that reason deserves support.

    Currently, the Ohio Apportionment Board every 10 years redraws districts forthe 99 House and 33 Senate members of the General Assembly. (The General Assembly itself draws congressional maps.) The apportionment board is made up of the governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor and one appointee from each political party. A majority of the board was made up of Democrats in 1971 and 1981, while Republicans made up a majority in 1991 and 2001.

    There is a good bit of evidence that districts have been drawn to further partisan goals, in particular giving emphasis to creating districts that are “safe” for one party or often for both parties. In the 2004 elections, the winners for Congress averaged 58 percent of the vote, and in 10 of the 18 races the winners received 65 percent or more. In 13 of 16 state Senate races, the winners received 62 or more percent. In the Ohio House, 21 of the 99 races were uncontested, while in 50 other races, the winners received 60 percent or more of the vote. Incumbents have very rates of re-election, and it is extremely rare for a seat to switch parties.

    To achieve these results, districts are often drawn in odd ways to make them more likely to elect legislators from a particular party. For example, Hamilton County, with the Democratic-leaning city of Cincinnati but surrounded by largely Republican suburbs, is split into two congressional districts. Franklin County, with the city of Columbus, is similarly split into three congressional districts.

    Issue Four has the promise of changing this practice. First, it would make the process of creating districts more bipartisan and transparent. The current apportionment board would be replaced with the Ohio Independent Redistricting Commission, made of up two state appellate judges from each party, who would in turn select the remaining five members from qualified voters.

    The commission would be required to run open meetings and follow conflict of interest guidelines. The political parties, or any person, would then submit proposed redistricting maps to the commission, which would eventually select one, giving primary though not exclusive emphasis to the increasingly competitive nature of the districts. The adopted plan would need to comply with the Voting Rights Act and other aspects of federal law, and would be subject to review for procedural objections in the Ohio Supreme Court.

    Issue Four has been criticized as preventing voters from being able to hold elected officials accountable for the process of creating legislative districts. But that supposed check does not work now and never has. How often do the governor or the other members of the current apportionment board run on platforms that they will draw districts in a certain way?

    A more thoughtful criticism is that Issue Four places too much emphasis on the virtue of competitiveness.

    Legislators are typically elected or defeated for a variety of reasons: their stand on the issues, incumbency advantage, name recognition, fund raising, etc. Would good public policy necessarily be advanced by having more competitive districts? We can’t be absolutely sure, but there’s little positive to say about the current system. The present system of gerrymandering has helped incumbents of both parties, discouraged appeals to voters who favor the middle ground on contentious issues, and arguably polarized debates in Congress and the Ohio Legislature.

    Curbing gerrymandering defies easy political labels. It is true that Reform Ohio Now, which favors Issue Four, has much backing from Democratic interests, while Ohio First, opposing Issue Four, has backing from Republican interests. But Issue Four will not necessarily hurt or help either party. More neutrally drawn districts will encourage robust debate on the issues, and candidates will and should be elected on that basis, as opposed to easy victories by incumbents.

    Redistricting commissions have worked in other states, and have been vigorously promoted by the conservative op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the libertarian Cato Institute think tank and, in an unusual alliance, the liberal op-ed page of the New York Times.

    One of the leaders of Ohio First, Ohio House member Kevin DeWine, has conceded, to his credit, that “there are different and better ways to draw congressional and legislative lines than what we have today.” I agree with Rep. DeWine. Debates by our elected representatives ought to be political. The process of selecting those representatives should be made as neutral and nonpartisan (or bipartisan) as possible. Adopting Issue Four is one step toward that goal.

    Issue 4 is not a partisan issue
    Lancaster Eagle-Gazette October 23, 2005
     The right to vote and the transparency of the voting process are two fundamental tenets of democracy. Problems and concerns with the voting process, most notably in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, have brought about intense public debate and a series of proposed reforms. Potential reforms include pending federal and Ohio legislation and four proposed amendments to the Ohio Constitution.”No congressional district should be safe because of the way it is drawn. It should be safe because the congressman represents the interests of the people in that district.”- President Ronald Reagan

    CONSIDERABLE confusion has erupted recently over Ohio Issues 2, 3, 4 and 5, the proposed amendments to the Ohio Constitution that will appear on the ballot on Nov. 8. In particular, one subject of confusion has been the allegedly partisan nature of these reform measures. Whether voters oppose or support specific reforms to the voting process in Ohio, all would benefit from actually understanding the non-partisan nature of these reforms. One reform in particular, Issue 4 (independent redistricting), has been the most contentious. An examination of support for and against Issue 4 is very informative with respect to the non-partisan nature of such a reform.

    Recent ads, press releases and word of mouth about Issue 4 have included two major pieces of misinformation: (1) all Democrats should support independent redistricting because Democrats are not in power and want to win more seats in state politics, and (2) all Republicans should oppose independent redistricting because it is some form of ploy by liberals to grab power away from them. In reality, Issue 4 is neither wholly supported nor wholly opposed by either political party. Anyone making claims that Republicans categorically oppose Issue 4 does not speak for me (I’m a registered Republican) and does not speak for a man named Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California. Schwarzenegger recently endorsed Ohio’s Issue 4 as a positive step in reforming our voting process and terminating corrupt partisan gerrymandering.

    Notable Ohio Republicans supporting Issue 4 include Jeff Cabot (an attorney, Columbus School Board Member and former Franklin County administrator), Joan Lawrence (former Taft Cabinet member and longtime state representative), John Galbraith (former longtime state representative), Mike Jones (community activist and Ohio Citizen Action Board Member) and Scott Pullins (executive director of the Ohio Taxpayers Association). For more information on the Ohio Taxpayers Association’s support of Issue 4 visit their Web site (www.ohioelectionreform.com). Why do so many Republicans support Issue 4? Consider the opposition and their motivations:

    One group in opposition to Issue 4 (and all of the voting reform amendments on November’s ballot) is the Ohio First Voter Education Fund. Their Web site (http://franklincountygop.org/ohiofirst.htm), hosted by the Franklin County GOP, is actually a lesson in how not to inform voters about voting rights. The site makes a series of negative statements about each proposed amendment (Issues 2, 3, 4 and 5), but fails to give a single reason why the issues would be ineffective if passed. It fails to give these reasons because many of the claims are completely false.

    For example, Ohio First’s Web site claims that independent redistricting (Issue 4) will take redistricting power away from “well-known, directly elected officers.” Of course it would take power away from them! These “well-known” individuals are partisan and self-interested politicians. The entire point of independent redistricting is to replace the “well-known, directly elected officers” (like Governor Bob Taft, for example) with an independent redistricting board. Ohio First further claims that the power to redistrict will be given instead to a “politically appointed board whose members are not required to meet any minimum level of qualifications.” This is completely false. The power is given directly to the citizens and is merely reviewed board, which is judicially appointed at first and then appointed by the current members of the Board.

    However, just in case the judges and the board would irrationally appoint someone potentially as incompetent as Governor Taft to the Board, the amendment lays out specific criteria for selection (contrary to Ohio First’s false claims). If no criteria are included, what about the part of the amendment stipulating that “persons who hold public office, are candidates for public office, hold a political party office, or are registered lobbyists, including during specified periods prior to appointment” are prohibited from serving on the Board? The claim that Board members need not meet “any minimum level of qualifications” is refuted by the fact that the governor himself would not be qualified to serve because he holds a public office. By the way, off the top of your head, what are the minimum qualifications for being governor? Can you, for example, have up to four criminal convictions for receiving unethical political contributions? Taft does, even though he’s “well-known” and “directly elected.” In case you happen to care about his views on voting reform (I don’t), Taft also opposes Issue 4.

    Ohio First is comprised largely of corrupt politicians and their corporate supporters, but you won’t learn that on their Web site. In fact, you won’t learn anything about their membership, because it is not disclosed.

    Issue 4 would take away the ability of entrenched politicians to reapportion registered voters, and that is a good thing. Republicans and Democrats from California to Ohio support independent redistricting for one simple reason: It actually makes sense. Don’t be misinformed. Issue 4 will put redistricting power where it belongs – into the hands of Ohio citizens.

    Issue 5 – Remove partisan politicians from the administration of state elections
    Would correct a glaring flaw in Ohio’s election system. It would create a bipartisan board to supervise elections, removing the secretary of state from his election oversight role.

    Political analysts across the country scratched their heads last year when the man who helped lead the charge in Ohio for the re-election of President Bush was the same man who would supervise counting the votes.

    All four of these issues are on the ballot because of citizen initiative, not because the political establishment or the party in power wanted them.

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