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Category: Ohio (page 1 of 4)

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Ohio’s State Redistricting Commission

By: Spencer Murray

In 2015, Ohio voters approved a state constitutional amendment that reformed the process for drawing district lines for the state legislature. Previously, state legislative redistricting had been managed by a five-member Apportionment Board, consisting of the governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor, and one member of the state legislature from both parties. New district lines only required a simple majority vote to enter into effect.

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Massachusetts Rules against Ban on Lying in Campaigns

By: David Schlosser

Over the summer of 2015, a Massachusetts law banning lying in campaign ads was struck down by that state’s highest court. This decision mirrors that of an Ohio federal judge last year, a case previously covered on this blog by Sarah Wiley. Like the Ohio law, the Massachusetts law criminalized telling lies about candidates for political office, and was as on the books for several decades before being successfully challenged in court. The lawsuit arose when a Democratic state representative alleged that a right-leaning PAC lied in a campaign brochure. The brochure in question alleged that Rep. Brian Mannal sponsored a bill that would “help convicted sex offenders” because he—as a defense attorney who had represented sex offenders in the past—stood to profit. Mannal maintained that he never provided legal representation to sex offenders. One of the bills in question would make GPS tracking devices optional for sex offenders on parole, rather than mandatory. After filing the bill in 2013, Mannal reported that he received death threats.

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The Fourth Time is the Charm: Ohio Voters Implement a Bipartisan Redistricting Commission

By: Kelsey Carpenter

On Election Day 2015, Ohio voters implemented ballot initiative Issue 1. This initiative creates a bipartisan redistricting commission to draw the state legislative district lines following the 2020 census, as opposed to the current system that allows the majority party to elect five partisan members to the redistricting commission. According to Issue 1, a seven-member panel that includes representatives from both the majority and minority parties will redraw the lines. The redistricting plan will pass for four years if four members of the panel accept the lines, while it will last for ten years if at least two of those votes come from members of the minority party. It is an interesting plan that attempts to eliminate partisan politics by incentivizing bipartisanship and cooperation.

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Ballot Initiatives for Marijuana Legalization Track Public Opinion

By Hannah Whiteker

Fans of direct democracy should be excited about the increased use of state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana use. Direct democracy  allows citizens to enact and change laws, instead of electing representatives to make important decisions for them. One of the ways that the United States utilizes direct democracy is through state ballot initiatives. If a group of voters wants to get an initiative on the ballot to pass a law in their state (there is no initiative process for federal elections), the group must first get enough voters to sign a petition supporting the initiative. The number of signatures required varies by state. If the group satisfies the signature requirement, the initiative is put on the ballot for the next statewide election to be voted on by the people.

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Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Race marred by Campaign Finance Allegations

By Lance Woods:

Since 1970, no Pennsylvania Governor has lost a reelection bid, however Pennsylvania’s 2014 Governor’s race ended with Tom Wolf (D) defeating incumbent Gov. Corbett (R). The election is arguably Pennsylvania’s most expensive, with Governor-elect Wolf spending $27.9 million, including $10 million of his own money, and Gov. Corbett spending $23.8 million. This historic defeat was marred by accusations from both parties claiming campaign finance violations.  Regardless of the merits of these accusations, it is very unlikely that any changes will be made to Pennsylvania’s toothless campaign finance laws.

No One Has Clean Hands

In June 2014, reports surfaced that billionaire casino investor Sheldon Adelson donated $987, 844 to a political action committee (“PAC”) set up by Gov. Corbett to help his bid for reelection. Great for Gov. Corbett, right? No, because Pennsylvania’s law strictly prohibits casino owners in the state from making contributions to candidates for state office or political committees and Mr. Adelson owns a casino in the commonwealth. The penalties for violating this provision range from fines to the revocation of the contributor’s gaming license. This “illegal accidental” contribution was quickly remedied because the large contribution was moved from Gov. Corbett’s PAC to the Republican Governors’ Association PAC (“RGA”). Although the RGA was Corbett’s biggest donor when he ran for Governor in 2010 an RGA spokesman claims that none of Adelson’s money was included in Corbett’s 2014 spending.

August 2014, the GOP accused Tom Wolf and his treasurer of numerous violations of Pennsylvania’s Election Code. The central claim is that Wolf created “Campaign for a Fresh Start” (“CFS”) to circumvent the Election Code rules that govern an authorized candidates political committee and the required disclosures that apply to such a committee. Specifically, that despite Wolf’s active participation in the creation of CFS, he never disclosed that CFS was an Affiliated and Connected Organization of his Campaign pursuant to § 3244(b)(4). The GOP claims that Wolf’s explanation for the creation of CFS is merely pretext and that its primary purpose is to contribute to his campaign. This allegation is based on the fact that Campaign for a Fresh Start has made numerous public broadcasts and communications directly advocating for the election of Tom Wolf.

Toothless laws

Although the penalties for such violations appear to have teeth, these provisions have never actually been used. Once certified by the attorney general, a judgment of ouster from office can be entered against the candidate who has been found to knowingly and willfully accept contributions, or make expenditures in contravention of PA’s election code. Attorney General Kathleen Kane has not responded to any of these claims. Disclosure requirements are intended to ensure that voters are fully aware of who is funding campaigns, however it is easy to question the utility of these requirements because they are so easily circumvented without any serious consequences. In the wake of Tom Wolf’s historic victory, it appears that all of these allegations will soon be forgotten. Until investigation of these violations are expedited and candidates are held accountable Pennsylvania’s campaign finance laws will continue to be ignored.

Friday at 6pm: Another Example of Changes in Ohio’s Election Regulation

By:  Mark Listes

Ohio is no stranger to changes in election administration and regulation. The Supreme Court determined the constitutionality of Ohio’s voter ID laws. The Sixth Circuit recently permanently enjoined the enforcement of Ohio’s campaign fair practice law that prohibited making false statements in campaigns. Ohio was highlighted in the 2004 election for extraordinarily long lines at its polls, and just eleven days before the 2014 midterm, the Sixth Circuit reversed the Southern District of Ohio, denying the right to vote to persons incarcerated but not yet convicted. Continue reading

Exercise of Democracy or Destruction of Impartiality: Election of Judges in Ohio

By Chris Keslar:

States select their judges in a couple different ways, but in thirty-nine states most or all judges are elected. Supporters of competitive elections for judges say that it is “the most democratic way to make judges accountable to the public.” Ohio is one such state, through constitutional mandate, to hold elections for judges. But do we really want courts to be accountable to the public? Or is the integrity of the law and its effective application of greater concern for the judiciary, and if so, is it incompatible with the interest of public accountability. Continue reading

You Can Lie in Ohio: Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Law Banning False Political Speech

By Sarah Wiley

A federal judge in Cincinnati struck down an Ohio law which criminalizes intentionally lying in campaign ads or statements, on the books for decades in early September on First Amendment grounds. The state filed an appeal in October. Continue reading

Florida’s Lukewarm Remedy for Chilly Early Voting Policies

By Nick Raffaele

While Florida’s relationship with early voting is still relatively new, the honeymoon may already be over. But to understand the hot and cold affair, it is helpful to look back on the couple’s history. Former Governor Jeb Bush first signed early voting into Florida law in 2004, providing early voting fifteen days before an election, eight hours per weekday and eight hours per weekend. Only a short year later, Bush and a Republican legislature cooled on the partnership, dropping the last Monday of early voting before a Tuesday election. The relations heated up again when former Governor Charlie Crist signed an executive order mandating that early voting be extended in response to overwhelming voter turnout for the 2008 Presidential election. Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, Florida again turned its back on early voting in 2011 by passing a controversial law that reduced early voting to eight days before an election for a minimum of six hours and a maximum of twelve hours per day. Continue reading

Redistricting Change Failed: Ohio Issue 2 (2012)

By Christopher Keslar

In the 2012 elections, a Redistricting Amendment to the Ohio Constitution was put on the ballot. Known as Issue 2, the amendment would have created a commission of twelve citizens to draw legislative and congressional maps. The amendment was defeated at the ballot box by a resounding 63% against and 37% for the amendment. To many, partisan redistricting is only a polite way of saying gerrymandering, and this very process of the state legislature choosing who will essentially elect them is provided for in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Secretary of State of Ohio, John Husted, wrote in the Washington Post this February, “[I]f government is to be more responsive, it is not the people but the Ohio Constitution that needs to change.” However, it may very well be the case that John Husted was the reason for Issue 2 failing at the ballot box. Continue reading

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