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Government and Politics

Buckeye poll says voters want to give Ohio lawmakers more time to govern
Policy poll also shows they like early voting, but not one party's dominance of the legislative and congressional maps

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M.L. Schultze
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The University of Akron’s Buckeye Poll shows Ohio voters like early voting and like term limits – but are a lot less fond of the way Ohio draws its congressional and legislative boundaries. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more.

LISTEN: Poll on policies shows some seeming contradictions

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LISTEN: An extended look at the Buckeye Poll by Karen Kasler

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The Bliss Institute poll focuses on policy issues, rather than who is winning what races. And this one touched on some pretty big ones: including how often lawmakers should be running to get into office and how long they should lawmakers stay once they get there.   

Bliss’s director John Green says some of the results might seem contradictory. Voters support term limits – but they’d be willing to extend the current limits from eight to 12 years if terms in the Ohio House and Senate were extended by two years each. Green says that's because voters see a difference between governance and politics. 

“They’d like to see their representatives have a number of years to work on public policy to solve problems before they have to stand for re-election, because of course when we have re-elections, the candidates are naturally focused on the campaign rather than public policy. People want to have their representatives enough time to solve problems but they don’t’ want anybody staying there too long.” 

The poll also shows nearly two-thirds of Ohio voters think early voting has helped the state. And nearly three out of every four would like to see either a non-partisan or a bipartisan panel draw congressional and legislative districts rather than leaving it to a process dominated by one political party. 

Extended look at the Buckeye Poll by Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler

The Akron Buckeye Poll asked about three issues that lawmakers may deal with soon – redistricting, term limits and early voting.

John Green with the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron says the term limits answers surprised him the most. Fifty-seven percent of voters said term limits have helped the state, while 30 percent said they hadn’t – and 70 percent of voters said eight-year term limits should stay. But 61 percent of voters supported increasing terms by two years, so representatives would serve four year terms, and senators would serve six year terms. Green says he has two theories why.

“Many … Ohioans think that their representatives should have more time on task – so that if someone is elected, say, with a four-year term, they’d have three years to work on public policy before the next election. And then, of course, you know a lot of Ohioans are not real happy with the tone of our elections. So if campaigns could be postponed, that would probably please a lot of folks.”

Green also says 48 percent of the voters surveyed said the way the state drew its legislative and congressional district lines has hurt Ohio, which is similar to results from the University of Akron’s poll in 2007.

But they’re divided on how the lines should be drawn. 
“The largest group – a plurality of people, about 44 percent - said that they’d really like to have a non-partisan panel of some kind to draw the district lines. There are a lot of people who would be happy with a bipartisan panel, a panel of equal number of Democrats and Republicans.”

And the poll also found that 60 percent of respondents say early voting has helped the state, and 51 percent support early voting up to four weeks before the election for any reason. Thirty percentsaid it should go back to how it was before 2005 – voting just on election day with absentee voting limited to those who have excuses.

Recently, lawmakers shortened the early voting period by a week, taking it from 35 days before an election to 29 days. And changes to redistricting and term limits have been under discussion by the panel that’s debating changes to Ohio’s constitution, which voters would have to approve.

The Akron Buckeye Poll was done by sampling 1,078 registered voters over landline and cell phones last month, and has a margin of error of 3 percent.

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