2015 Ohio Ballot Issues
by Gigi Protasiewicz
This past November 3rd, thousands of Ohioans turned out at the polls to vote in both local and statewide elections. Besides the numerous candidates for local office, three statewide issues appeared on the ballot. In case you didn’t get a chance to read up on them before the election, here is a description of each of the issues and whether or not they passed.
Officially named the Ohio Bipartisan Redistricting Commission Amendment, Issue 1 would have attempted to address the problem of gerrymandering by creating a bipartisan redistricting commission taking effect in 2021. In the current system, legislative districts were drawn up by a board including the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and two other members. This was criticized for being too partisan; for example, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in 2011 four out of the five committee members were Republicans. In the system proposed by Issue 1, the redistricting commission would have seven members, with at least two of them being from a minority party. Moreover, in order to pass a redistricting plan for 10 years, it must be approved by at least two committee members from each political party, and all redistricting plans are forbidden from favoring one party. Issue 1 was widely supported, endorsed by both the Ohio Democratic Party and the Ohio Republican Party, and eventually passed with 71% of the vote.
Initially crafted in response to Issue 3, which some thought was too monopolistic, Issue 2 would require the Ohio Ballot Board to stringently regulate ballot initiatives regarding monopolies. When a proposal that the Board had deemed monopolistic is set to appear on the ballot, it would be presented as two questions. The first one would ask if the initiative, even if it gives more opportunities to some people than to others, should be considered; the second question would be the actual proposal. Issue 2 received support and opposition from many different right and left leaning political groups. Many legislators and citizens supported the amendment in hopes of improving economic equality and opportunity. Opposition was mainly on the basis that the amendment would interfere with Ohio’s long-lasting tradition of ballot initiatives by forcing many voting issues to be a two-step process. In the end, Issue 2 passed by a narrow margin, with 52% of the vote.
By far considered the most controversial of these issues, Issue 3 was a proposed legislation of marijuana. More specifically, it would have allowed anyone with a certified medical condition to use medical marijuana and anyone 21 or older to use up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana. One of the more highly debated parts of the amendment was the fact that only 10 facilities would have the right to commercially produce marijuana (sparking the addition of Issue 2 to the ballot). New marijuana production would have been taxed at a 15% flat rate and retail would have been taxed at a 5% flat rate, with these revenues going to various government funds. This revenue gain was one of the main arguments of supporters of Issue 3, along with increased access to medical marijuana. Those coalition of those opposed to the issue consisted of both anti-drug activists and people who opposed the amendment’s monopoly on production. All in all, the groups opposing the bill outweighed its supporters; the bill was defeated, with 64% of Ohioans voting against it.