Voters support Taft’s wage project and plans for capital improvements

Jessica Rothschuh

Ohioans will soon see the effects of their votes cast on five statewide issues in the off-term elections Nov. 8 – of which they passed one.

Voters approved Issue 1, a $2 billion bond initiative supporting Gov. Bob Taft’s Third Frontier Project to create higher-paying technology and information-based jobs in Ohio. The issue also renewed a bond initiative to pay for infrastructure capital improvements such as roads, bridges, wastewater and water supply systems and similar projects.

“I was very supportive of State Issue 1,” said State Senator Kimberly Zurz. “It’s an opportunity for Ohio, and we definitely need opportunities.”

Zurz said the issue will build a bridge between higher education and business in the state, helping to keep Ohio graduates in Ohio. In addition, Summit and Portage counties have both received funding for many projects with these bond dollars in the past.

Kent Mayor John Fender also approved of Issue 1’s passage, calling it “quite beneficial” to the city.

“I think it was good for Kent, good for the state, for Northeastern Ohio and for the university,” Fender said. “As mayor of Kent, I am really appreciative that it passed.”

Both Zurz and Fender said the issue has the potential to generate jobs in the state.

Opponents of Issue 1 said it will cause long-term debt by investing dollars without a tax plan to pay the annual interest and to fund the bonds’ redemption, among other things, according to a letter on Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell’s Web site from State Representatives Tom Brinkman Jr. and Diana Fessler.

The remaining four ballot issues, which were all voted down, were proposed by Reform Ohio Now, a group of people and mostly Democratic organizations campaigning to reform Ohio voting and to increase accountability.

Reform Ohio Now’s proposed issues:

n Issue 2: Would allow all electors to vote absentee by mail or in person in all elections within the 35 days prior to the election

ƒ-S Issue 3: Would establish revised limits and new public disclosure requirements on political contributions.

ƒ-S Issue 4: Would create a bipartisan, appointed state redistricting commission to redraw legislative districts.

ƒ-S Issue 5: Would create a newly appointed, nine-member board to oversee elections instead of the Ohio Secretary of State, who currently holds that responsibility.

Zurz said she thought Issues 2 through 5 had good things about them, but there were a number of reasons they were defeated.

One reason was many voters didn’t understand the issues, Zurz said.

“I think that the language was very cumbersome,” she said.

Because people fear the unknown, those voters who didn’t understand the issues likely voted no on them, Zurz said.

“These issues were not your everyday issues that voters vote on,” said Keary McCarthy, a Reform Ohio Now spokesman. “They were more complex.”

Additionally, Zurz said she thinks packaging the four issues together wasn’t a good idea and there was “an awful lot of money spent to defeat them.”

McCarthy said though all four issues failed, there may still be ways to revisit the issues they dealt with.

For example, Reform Ohio Now’s opponents did not support the way the issue proposed to redraw district lines, McCarthy said. However, they did agree something should be done to fix “a system we all agreed is flawed.”

Similarly, those opposed to Issue 5 disagreed with the way it proposed to restrict the politics in the Secretary of State’s office but not necessarily the need to do it, McCarthy said.

“But the legislature, for example, could pass a law,” he said. “You might see that happen.”

Zurz said she was in favor of Issue 2 to allow absentee voting. Though an Ohio constitutional law was passed three weeks before the election to allow this type of voting, it may actually deter people because the process is complicated and burdensome.

“I think what we just passed in the state is shameful,” Zurz said.

The legislation differs from Issue 2 by requiring voters to show identification when they both request and submit an absentee ballot.

Issue 2 made absentee voting easier because it was “strictly no-fault,” Zurz said. “Your signature on that card is supposed to be verification. I agree with the League of Women Voters on that issue entirely.”

However, Zurz said she is hopeful the state will reexamine absentee voting in the future and reconsider the legislation it just passed.

Portage County Republican Party and Gov. Taft did not return calls for comment.

Contact public affairs reporter Jessica Rothschuh at [email protected].