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Published: 11/5/2005

Tips about the issues

BY ROSE RUSSELL

THE state issues on Tuesday's ballot can be confusing. While many have almost decided about the candidates, few are sure about the state issues, so I'm offering some clarity to help unravel confusion.

Upon hearing about Issue 1, I said, "Didn't we vote on that two years ago?" Among its three components is proposed legislation like Gov. Bob Taft's "Third Frontier" initiative that failed in 2003, although it promised investment in high-tech research and job development.

This year's Issue 1 promises "Jobs for Ohio." It's a $2 billion bond initiative that would let the state borrow over 20 years and pay it back with general tax revenue over 30 years, without raising taxes. Weigh it carefully. Some worry it would cost Ohio another $1 billion in interest.

That aspect of Issue 1 would invest in high-tech and medical research and development. The other two sections of the issue would pay to improve local roads and waterlines and for economic development.

Nobody's against jobs. But will northwest Ohio get a fair share? The lieutenant governor says Lucas County would get some $116 million. Great. But will Hamilton, Franklin, and Cuyahoga counties get more?

As for Issue 2, you know, some things just shouldn't change. It's an exercise in citizenship to go to the polls to vote.

Issue 2 would let voters request an absentee ballot up to 35 days before an election, without giving a reason why. Currently, citizens who want absentee ballots must say why, and boards of election accept 16 reasons, ranging from being elderly to being out of town, in the military, or because of health, disability, or work.

If it passes, Issue 2 could make voters lazier. Too few registered voters go vote as it is, and too few eligible citizens are registered to vote.

Do you really believe more Ohioans wanting absentee ballots will complete and send them in on time?

I doubt it. Besides, when it rains on Election Day, I like to know I'm not the only one getting drenched going to and from the polls. More importantly, how many absentee voters would suddenly find themselves influenced by a candidate or issue worker showing up to offer "guidance" on voting? Voting is personal and private now. It should stay that way.

Issue 3 is a campaign finance matter that caps how much candidates can receive. Candidates vying for state office would only be allowed to accept $2,000 per individual and $1,000 from political action committees. The limits would be $1,000 and $5,000 for legislative candidates. Who's against that?

Issue 4 involves redistricting; the goal is to stem the abuse of power by either party. Instead of getting bogged down explaining the governor's woes or Coingate, just remember that Issue 4 would remove the authority to draw district lines from elected politicians and give it to a redistricting panel. The panel would be required to draw lines so incumbent candidates' challengers would have a fairer chance than they have now, since districts' lines are drawn to protect whichever party is in power.

Issue 4 would help end gerrymandering, the drawing of district lines to benefit one party or the other. The term was coined after Elbridge Gerry - Massachusetts governor and James Madison's vice president - who signed a bill that redistricted lines and gave his party the edge. The Federalists objected to the oddly shaped districts. One district, it was said, looked like a salamander. Thus, the term gerrymander.

Finally, Issue 5 would take election oversight out of the hands of the secretary of state and make it the responsibility of a bipartisan board.

You recall what happened last fall. Our Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was also President Bush's Ohio re-election chief. With the Republican secretary in charge of voting, is it any wonder Ohio turned out to be a "red" state? No secretary of state should ever be allowed to lead a candidate's campaign and count the votes.

Finally, make sure you go vote Tuesday, no matter what the weather. And if you don't vote, don't complain.

Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.

E-mail rrussell@theblade.com



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