Reform Ohio Now: The Polls

From the diaries--Chris

The Columbus Dispatch has released its first polls assessing public sentiment for/against the issues on the ballot in November, including the four RON amendments.  Comments about the Dispatch's mail survey methodology notwithstanding, here are the results...

Issue 2, which would permit voters to cast ballots by mail or in person up to 35 days before an election without stating a reason, enjoys substantial support.  68% are in favor, 25% are opposed, 7% are undecided.

Issue 3, which would revise limits on political contributions made by individuals, political-action committes and political parties, including reducing the maximum amount an individual could give to a statewide candidate from $10K to $2K, enjoys overwhelming support.  70% are in favor, 15% are opposed, and 15% are undecided.  It should be noted that the contribution limits were raised late last year, when Governor Taft called a special session of the legislature while the rest of the world was on Christmas vacation.  The public comment on the higher limits was overwhelmingly negative, but the GOP-dominated legislature passed it anyway.

So far, so good.

Issue 4, which would create a five-member independent commission to draw new congressional and state legislative districts after each census, is not faring as well.  38% are opposed, 26% are in favor, and 36% are undecided.  This may be the most important of RON's four proposals, and is also probably the most complex.  (Just try to explain gerrymandering to the typical voter.)  Both supporters and opponents of this issue plan to step up their efforts.  With over a third of the voters undecided about this measure, the matter is still far from decided.  Support for Issue 4 varies with political affiliation - Democrats support it by 35-28, nonaffiliated voters oppose it by 37-25, and Republicans oppose it by 49-19.  Other demographic variables - sex, income, religion, etc. - have little impact on support for this issue.

Issue 5, which would remove responsibility for election oversight from the secretary of state and place it in the hands of an appointed nine-member bipartisan board, enjoys a narrow lead.  42% are in favor, 37% are opposed, and 20% are undecided.

My first cut at redistricting in Ohio

State population:  11,353,140
Congressional districts:  18
Population per district:  630,730

There was no attempt to force political balance, just to make geographic sense.  Counties were split into no more than two districts.

There's more...

Has RON bitten off more than it can chew?

An article in the August 18 edition of The Other Paper - a free alternative weekly in Columbus, Ohio - raises some interesting questions about Reform Ohio Now's (RON) proposed election-reform amendments.  RON received nearly 200,000 more signatures than it needed to place the issues on the ballot, so unless something bizarre happens, the people will vote on the proposed amendments in November.

Writer Dan Williamson strongly supports RON's plan to create a bipartisan panel to draw legislative districts after each census.  It's hard to argue with this one.  Williamson also backs, albeit less enthusiastically, a proposal to allow voting by mail or in person up to 35 days before the scheduled date of the election.

But Williamson also questions the wisdom of RON's other two amendments.  Williamson believes the amendment to reduce limits on campaign contributions to the levels in place before they were raised in an emergency session over the Christmas holiday has no place in the state constitution, and should be sorted out in the legislature.  [If the legislature wasn't dominated by the Grand Old Party of Corruption - a result of the GOP's control of the redistricting process - I could more easily see Williamson's point.]

More interestingly, Williamson questioned the need for an independent election-oversight panel.  In Ohio, as in most (all?) other states, the secretary of state has that job.  Ohio's SOS is the nefarious Ken Blackwell.  While one can argue that Ohio doesn't have a problem with the secretary of state's job description as much as it has a problem with Blackwell's partisan abuse of his office, there is no guarantee that future secretaries of state - of either party - will be any less partisan.  Williamson also points out that the amendment would create a new bureaucracy while leaving an old one intact.

Finally, Williamson expresses concern that RON may have hurt the chances of the redistricting amendment (and the vote by mail amendment) by bundling them with two weaker amendments.  RON's opponents can attack the weaker amendments, which may hurt the stronger amendments by association.  It is possible that the public may be confused by the number of amendments (and the amount of language that will appear on the ballot) and may vote against all the amendments.  Of course, in the present atmosphere, it is also possible that the voters will approve anything that resembles a reform measure.

So, has RON overreached in its effort to reform elections in the Buckeye State?

The fun never ends in Ohio

A group backed by GOP legislative leaders filed a lawsuit yesterday to stop three proposed election-system changes that threaten the political power structure on Capitol Square.

Though the deadline to turn in petitions is five days away, [former Ohio senate president Richard] Finan asked the Ohio Supreme Court to prevent Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell from accepting petition forms filed by Reform Ohio Now. Citing an 86-year-old Supreme Court case, he says the documents are invalid because they fail to outline the current constitutional language that would be deleted if the amendments are approved.

There's more...

It just gets better in Ohio...

According to this morning's (July 16) Columbus Dispatch, Matthew Damscroder, Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, reported that a Diebold representative offered him $10,000 on the day the county opened bids for voter-registration software.  And the plot thickens from there.  More below the fold...

There's more...

Bipartisan election reform in Ohio?

This fall, Ohio residents may vote on three proposed amendments that would change the way legislative districts are drawn, create a bipartisan state board of election supervisors, and reform the state campaign finance law.  The board of election supervisors would replace the Secretary of State - the office now held by Ken Blackwell - as the state elections administrator.  The campaign finance proposal would reverse the newly enacted $10K cap on individual contributions.  This higher cap was enacted in December, and went into law when a petition drive failed to produce the 194,000 signatures required to place the law before the public as a referendum.

The proposals were crafted by the former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, a former state Supreme Court justice (GOP), the president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, and anemeritus political science professor at Ohio State University.

Assuming the proposals pass legal muster, over 320,000 signatures must be obtained by August 10 to place the issues on the ballot.  A number of nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations will support the petition drive.

More details below the fold.  Yes, I realize the article is a week old...

There's more...

The coming GOP implosion in Ohio

Ken Blackwell nay be the frontrunner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Ohio, a prospect which causes no end of consternation among more moderate Ohio Republicans.  And rightward moves by Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery, Blackwell's challenger for the GOP nomination, may alienate moderate Republicans as well.

According to The Other Paper...

There's more...

Which procession are we in?

My apologies in advance to those who would rather eat glass that endure another religious diary.  But for those who don't mind another religious diary, read on...

The following passages are excerpted from Marcus Borg's Palm Sunday sermon at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Centennial, Colorado, a few weeks ago.

[See sermon library, 2005, March 20.]

There's more...

Kerry in '08?

Should Kerry run again in 2008?  If so, what should he do differently?  If not, why not?

Early returns?

Have early (pre-Election Day) returns been incorporated into the totals of states that allow early voting, or do the partial figures include only today's results?  Didn't we have an 8% lead in the early voting in Florida?


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