By Jasmine Rogers
The Marietta Times
The two state issues that will be on Ohioans' ballots this November have taken a back seat to heated candidates races and a handful of levies. Without televised debates, hourly television commercials, and over abundant yard signs, many voters might feel in the dark about State Issue 1 and 2.
Mandy Amos, clerk for the Washington County Board of Election, said so far the early voters have not had a lot of questions about the state issues. However, it is important that voters hammer out their queries before they vote because the BOE is prohibited from commenting on the issues.
"We have the full language posted here and we can refer them to that, but we are not supposed to comment on any of the issues. It could be thought that we were influencing votes," said Amos.
Early voting hours
8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Oct. 26.
8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 2.
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 3.
1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 4.
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 5.
Source: Washington County Board of Elections.
Usually, voters who do have questions are worried the language of the bill is designed to trick the voter or they simply have not heard of the issue, said Amos.
The state issues are as follows:
State Issue 1
For those who have voted more than 20 years, State Issue 1 might look a little familiar.
That is because it was last seen on the 1992 ballot. It was also on the 1972, 1952 and 1932 ballots. State Issue 1 shows up on Ohio ballots once every 20 years, asking Ohio voters whether or not a convention should be held to "revise, alter, or amend the Ohio Constitution."
The issue has failed all four times previously, said Mike Tager, associate professor of political science at Marietta College.
"I don't think there has been a convention since they put this provision in during the 1912 convention. I am guessing it was sort of a progressive era idea to give people the power," said Tager.
Ohioans have other options for amending the constitution. Legislators in both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate can suggest changes. Even the general public can get a proposed amendment on the ballot if they acquire enough signatures, he added.
Last year, the Ohio legislature created a Constitutional Modernization Commission, made up of 12 legislators, equally divided by party line, and an additional 20 members chosen from a pool of qualified Ohioans. The job of that commission is to propose updates to the General Assembly ever two years.
Any proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution, whether recommended by the General Assembly, the public, members of the Modernization Commission, or even members of a convention, would still need to be ratified by both the House and the Senate by a three-fifths vote. It would also have to receive a majority vote by Ohio voters during the next statewide election before it could be enacted.
State Issue 2
At first glance, State Issue 2 could look a little daunting.
It is certainly the lengthiest issue on the ballot, enveloping almost an entire page on its own. At its base, the issue lays out a step by step guide for appointing a commission to map legislative districts. The commission would consist of 12 members, with the membership split evenly three ways among Democrats, Republicans and people not affiliated with either major party.
Currently, legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years, after the census is completed, by a five-person board. By nature, the board will always be controlled by one major party or the other, said Tager.
That apportionment board includes the governor, secretary of state, state auditor and two members of the legislature. The two legislative members represent each of the two parties, but it is possible for all three state officials to be members of a single party, meaning the board could be split down party lines four to one. In fact, it currently is divided this way. The Ohio governor, Secretary of State and State Auditor are all Republicans.
"When you have the current configuration where the legislature and governor's office are controlled by the same party, they can do it how they want," said Tager.
Voting in favor of the issue could produce more competitive voting districts. However, the language of the issue does not clearly state how the issue would be funded. In addition, there could be concern that the commission would not have the intended effect and that it would take engendered powers away from elected officials.
Though most states still use Ohio's current system, there is currently a trend toward a bipartisan commission.
"There are 10 or 11 states that are doing it this way," said Tager referring to bipartisan commissions.
To read the full text of the state issues before voting, visit the BOE office and ask for the pamphlet explaining the issues. The condensed text of each bill, as it will appear on the ballot, can be found on a sample ballot, provided through the BOE website at www.electionsonthe.net/oh/washington.