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Government and Politics




Ballot board revises ballot summary for redistricting proposal
Some supporters of the proposal say that the changes made still don't clarify the issue for voters
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 

The Ohio Ballot Board has adopted new language for the ballot summary that voters will see when they cast ballots on a proposed redistricting constitutional amendment. The board did this during an emergency meeting less than 24 hours after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the language must be changed. But as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, backers of the proposed amendment say the board didn’t make any improvements to clarify the issue for voters.

Ingles on the ballot summary

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Wednesday night, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the original ballot language for the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment is defective and misleads voters.  Secretary of State Jon Husted says the changes made by the Republican dominated ballot board in the hours following the court ruling should now satisfy the court.

“The more simple the ballot language is, the easier it is for people to understand.  And to me, the layperson, the harder it is to understand.  And so the more you add, the more complicated you make it and so we are trying to meet that happy medium of making sure it’s complete and has all of the information that the court asked for but is done in a way that’s understandable.”

But there was a lot of debate between Democratic and Republican ballot board members over the new ballot summary.  Democrats wanted amendments to shorten the language but Republican board member Keith Faber said it’s not possible to make this summary easy to understand.

“The only way to be clear on this complicated, confusing selection process is to put the exact wording from the constitutional amendment in this session.  Let’s err on doing the completion side of this.  Remember it said we can do two things.  We can either put the complete language or do a summary.  But if we do a summary, we can’t get it wrong.  But if we do a summary at this point, I fear we will get it wrong because frankly, I didn’t draft the confusing selection process that’s in the constitutional amendment.”

But Ann Henkener with Voters First, the group that’s backing the proposed constitutional amendment, says there’s no reason why the board couldn’t have used the shorter, more concise language suggested by the court itself.

“The court was able to do that very easily in just a couple of lines.  They explained how the commission was formed and it was very easy to do that.  It seemed to be very confusing to the ballot board to do that.  It would have been a very easy thing to do that.  It would have been an easy thing to do to adopt the court’s language.  It was very clear.”

Don McTigue, the attorney who’s been working with Voters First, says the ballot board left out something very important.

“I think a serious deficiency is not telling the voters what the actual name of this committee is which is the Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission.  This is a constitutional amendment to create a new state body to draw legislative districts.  The voters are at least entitled to know what the name of that body is.”

Former State Representative Fred Strahorn is one of the Democrats on the ballot board.  He proposed amendments that were shot down by majority Republicans on the board.  He favors the idea behind the proposed constitutional amendment to make districts more competitive because of his experience in the state legislature.

“I found that way too often, because members found they didn’t have to be responsive to voters because of the types of districts they had, that they were typically willing to do more extreme things and I don’t think the voters want that.”

Voters will get their say soon.  Absentee ballots will be going out later this month.

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