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Published: Thursday, 11/1/2012

Group frets long ballot for Issue 2 will turn off voters

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — The ballot language for a proposal to overhaul how Ohio redraws congressional and state legislative districts is so lengthy that some voters aren’t getting past it to local candidates and issues, the amendment’s backers said Wednesday.

Participation often falters the farther down the ballot voters go, but backers of Issue 2 said they’ve received complaints from local senior service and public safety groups that cause them to fear voter drop-off will be worse this year.

“… [C]areer politicians in their attempt to defeat Issue 2 made the description that appears on the ballot so long and cumbersome that we’re worried, frankly, that voters won’t get through it, that not only will they not vote on Issue 2, but they won’t vote on important measures … important to our local communities,” said Dan Tokaji, an Issue 2 supporter.

He stressed that he was not talking in his role as an election-law professor at Ohio State University’s law school.

“People are getting confused and not realizing that there are further issues after Issue 2,” said Bentley Davis, Ohio director for the Alliance for Retired Americans. “My particular concern is with the senior services’ levies. There are about a dozen in the state.”

In the 2008 presidential election, there was a drop-off of nearly 550,000 votes, or nearly 10 percent, between the top of the ballot to that year’s Issue 2, a successful constitutional amendment that approved borrowing for the Clean Ohio conservation and industrial reclamation program. Adding to the length of the ballot this year was a legal dispute over the wording of the language.

Voters First Ohio, the group behind Issue 2, sued the Ohio Ballot Board after it initially adopted language that the Ohio Supreme Court agreed was misleading.

The board’s response was to put the entire proposed amendment of 1,000-plus words on the ballot. The length of the ballot language has led to higher postage requirements for mail-in absentee ballots. Rates vary by the precinct and number of local issues.

“Issue 2 is a flawed constitutional amendment,’’ said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Protect Your Vote Ohio, Issue 2’s opposition. “It’s very complex. The actual constitutional amendment is over seven pages long. …

“If you look at all the opposition to Issue 2 from major newspapers, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Judicial Conference, and two dozen professional and civil groups, they all say redistricting should be reformed, but this falls short,’’ Mr. LoParo said.

Congressional districts are redrawn, typically every 10 years after a U.S. Census, by the General Assembly and signed by the governor like any other bill. State House and Senate districts are redrawn by a panel consisting of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and one lawmaker from opposite parties.

Issue 2 would replace both processes with a single 12-member citizen panel whose members would be directly or indirectly appointed by appellate judges and set criteria for adoption of a map, including a requirement that districts be politically competitive.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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