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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2011

Editorials

The voters have spoken

BLADE STAFF

The message from Ohio voters is clear: Whether you are a Republican, Democratic, or nonpartisan officeholder, they don't like the job you're doing.

More than 3 million Ohioans voted on three statewide issues this week. They defeated Issues 1 and 2 by nearly 2-1 margins, and supported Issue 3 in slightly larger numbers.

Issue 1 would have changed the state constitution to raise the age limit for candidates for judge from 70 to 75. The issue had partisan overtones because Republicans hold a 6-1 advantage on the Ohio Supreme Court. But judicial elections are nonpartisan and there are many Democratic judges across the state.

The problem with judicial elections is not that judges are too old, but that it is almost impossible to defeat an incumbent. By rejecting Issue 1, voters refused to extend sitting judges' nearly unassailable hold on the bench by another five years.

Voters said yes to Issue 3, which purports to prohibit the insurance mandate in President Obama's health-care reform law from having force in Ohio. But states can't exempt themselves from federal law: The constitutionality of the insurance mandate will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court, not by an amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

So the effect of Issue 3 is essentially symbolic. Still, Ohioans seem afraid that a flood of previously uninsured people will raise health-care costs and reduce access and quality of care. President Obama should pay attention as we approach the 2012 presidential election.

People are angry at Washington, and Issue 3 was the only outlet on Tuesday's ballot for Ohioans to express their frustration. But Columbus Republicans would be foolish to assume they are not included in the popular ire.

Gov. John Kasich took a thumping on Issue 2, as voters said no to overreaching legislation that would have gutted collective-bargaining rights for public employees that help protect all Ohio workers. The governor said: "I've heard their voices, I understand their decision, and frankly, I respect what people have to say." We'll see.

Polls make clear that Ohioans do not want to undo decades of struggle for dignity, workplace safety, and living wages. But they expect public workers to share the burden of tough economic times.

A narrower bill that would reform abuses in current collective-bargaining law will find support among voters -- a fact that should not be lost on the governor. If public unions fail to support reasonable changes, they will deservedly forfeit the public support they have gained in recent months.

Mr. Kasich also can show that his new-found humility is sincere by pulling back on blatantly partisan efforts to force gerrymandered congressional districts and voter-suppression legislation on Ohio.

The electorate has shown Mr. Kasich and the GOP-dominated General Assembly a way forward, if they are serious about reform. Whether they got the message will be shown by their actions rather than rhetorical displays of humility.



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