My Own Civics Lesson - Reforming Ohio

Submitted by Kevin Cronin on Wed, 10/05/2005 - 09:02.

On Election Day, I stood at a polling location on Cleveland's eastside and talked to voters about Reform Ohio Now (RON) and issues 2-5 on the ballot in November. The voting location was JFK High School, one of the largest polling stations in ward one, the wealthiest and biggest voting ward in the African-American community. I was the one who learned a lot.

Election day is a busy day. Generally, people are rushing to vote, heading to or from work, school, picking up kids or thousands of other things. They have a lot of things on their mind. They may accept political discussion or a candidate flyer when they go into vote, but you're never sure they really listen and, most likely, they probably know their vote already. However, on this occasion, it was really very different: people stopped, dead in their tracks, to learn what RON was all about.

Reform Ohio Now represents a series of four ballot initiatives for the November election:

Issues 2, Changing Absentee Voting: Voters would be permitted to cast ballots by mail or in person at a county board of elections up to 35 days before an election without having to state a specific reason for wanting to voting early.

Issue 3, Reducing the Role of “Big Money” Campaign Contributions: The Ohio legislature recently quadrupled campaign contribution limits, raising them from $2,500 to $10,000, allowing an individual to contribute up to $20,000 a year to a candidate, potentially flooding the electoral system with special-interest money, watering down the impact of the Ohio voters. The change would limit individual campaign contributions to $2,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 to legislative candidates, ban corporate contributions, and require full disclosure.

Issue 4, Creating an Independent Commission to Draw Legislative Districts: Currently, politicians draw legislative districts themselves, often manipulating the lines to gain advantage. While there are very good reasons to redraw district lines (update districts to reflect population changes or ensure compliance with federal civil rights laws), the process can also be abused, manipulating the lines to pack as many voters from one Party into a given district and guarantee re-election success for incumbents. The change would create an independent board with an open process that allows citizens to submit plans for legislative districts.

Issue 5, Creating Bi-Partisan Board of Supervisors for Elections: In recent elections, partisan election officials have undermined public confidence in the fairness of the election process. The proposal would remove partisan public officials from the administration of state elections, creating a bipartisan State Board of Elections.

In conversation after conversation, voters asked me questions about reform, thoughtful questions, and passed along comments of their own. The level of disappointment and frustration with government today is staggering. I heard it all:

Elections are "out of control,"

I've "lost faith in government,"

"It's all about the money,"

"They aren't representing me."

But the interest in the Reform Ohio Now proposals was just as strong:

"That makes sense,"

"If elections aren't right, nothing else will be either,"

"Now that's something I can believe in,"

"It's about time we got something right in Columbus."

Reform Ohio Now proposes common sense reforms everyone understands. People certainly know the problem, but they also get the solution. It was exciting to hear voters talk this way. For more information, visit: www.reformohionow and please vote on November 8th. Are we going to change or not? Let's go Ohio. Reform Ohio Now!