It seems to me that voters often give short shrift to “off year” elections, such as the one fast approaching. (“Short shrift” is another of those old expressions not used much any more even though it’s a perfectly good term meaning “to give little or no attention or consideration to; to dismiss out of hand.”).
That’s a pretty good description of the way folks feel about these general elections where the ballots do not feature races for the president, members of Congress, members of the state legislature, state supreme court and local judges, and other such “important” subjects. It’s kinda like a lot of registered voters either don’t know or don’t care about what’s on the ballot unless there’s something worthy of their attention. Well, guess what? There are a lot of races for various local offices, tax levies, and even compelling state-wide issues that are to be decided in this upcoming election.
According to our county’s Board of Elections there are 22 enumerated “issues” before the voters plus another four “local option Sunday sales” choices. Three issues are state-wide, one is county-wide, with the remainder being on the ballot dependent on where a voter lives. Here’s a quick look.
State Issue 1 is another attempt to remedy the long-standing problem of how our state’s legislative districts are determined. The short description says, “ Creates a bipartisan, public process for drawing legislative districts.” If the issue is approved, a new process will be established in yet another attempt to come up with a plan to make the legislative districts less susceptible to political pressure in the way they are created. Not interested? Been there, done that, and besides, who cares -it’s all just politics anyway, right? Okay, let’s move on to two proposed amendments to our state constitution that are on the ballot.
Issues 2 and 3 may be interesting because they are in conflict. State Issue 3 essentially decriminalizes the possession and use of marijuana for both medical and personal recreational purposes. The proposed amendment, however, also creates a virtual commercial monopoly for: “the growth and cultivation of marijuana and medical marijuana, and the extraction of cannabinoids from marijuana and medical marijuana, for sale and medical use within this state.” It also authorizes some 1100 retail outlets for marijuana and marijuana products – that’s more than the Micky-D’s we have in this state.
On the other hand, Issue 2 is essentially an anti-monopoly amendment designed to protect the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit. The proposed amendment would: “ Prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status. Prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a commercial interest, right, or license that is not available to similarly situated persons or nonpublic entities.” Oops! Got your interest yet or is this subject not important enough?
Let’s move on to the single county-wide issue which is a tax levy supporting our county parks and trails. Wanna fund these public resources or not – or is this another “who cares? issue? I found 13 tax levies on the ballot for the various cities, villages, and townships in our county – most of these were renewal levies, that is, they would not increase taxes. The list includes funding for street maintenance, public health, general operating expenses, EMT and fire services, roads and bridges, police, and senior services – and there is also one school income tax proposal. You wanna help decide which taxes you pay, for what, and how much or isn’t this interesting either?
Okay, what about the contests for those we elect to run our local governments and schools? Well, in this “off-year” election, in this county there are 10 different city council races, eight races for mayor, two for clerk, 12 for township trustee, 11 for township fiscal officer, and seven for board of education. Wanna help decide who’s running things or just leave that up to someone else?
You know, the right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have – particularly at the local level. While we may feel frustrated and even powerless with what goes on at the national level, we have the opportunity, indeed, the responsibility to control what happens at the local level but only if we participate in the process. Staying home on election day and then complaining about the results is more than foolish – it’s ridiculous. At least that’s how it seems to me.