Understanding the Issues

Ohio voters are having a hard time understanding the four ballot issues backed by Reform Ohio Now (RON). And it has nothing to do with the now-famous RON goat, intoning in goatese, the word "really" at the end of a television advertisement.

Checking in at an average of 562 words, according to the Dayton Daily News, the issues on the November 8th ballot are five times longer than the gay marriage ban proposal on the ballot last year. Add to all those words a bunch of numbers and an odd formula, it's not surprising there is real trouble getting the point across to the average voter.

With just over three weeks to go before the election there is little indication that most voters have started to educate themselves on any of the five issues and there seems to be particular ignorance of the four issues designed to comprehensively change the way Ohioans elect their representatives. As the Columbus Dispatch reports, at least one voter opposes the issue to lower campaign funding limits because "politicians make enough money."

With the election approaching, both Reform Ohio Now and its political opponent, Ohio First, are planning on ratcheting up television advertisements. While that might not necessarily increase the understanding of the issues, it could have the corollary effect of piquing voters' interest in what is on the ballot. From there, Ohioans have several choices.

Many websites have been up for months in anticipation of the confusion, offering some straightforward, plain language answers. Along with Election Law @ Moritz, the Ohio Secretary of State, the League of Women Voters and Ohio Business Votes are among the places where voters can get a rundown of the issues, including pro and con opinions of each.

For Ohioans uncomfortable with relying on websites or who are simply interested in asking questions to real people, several groups, organizations and regular folks are offering an alternative. Information sessions designed to give voters the information they need about the issues are being held all over the state. (For Columbus area information sessions, some of which will be moderated by EL@M faculty members, see here.)

Still, voters are going to have to do some reading sooner or later, regardless of the content of radio and TV ads or what they hear at information sessions. If Ohioans put off that reading until they get to the polling place there may be some delays come November 8th. After all, according to John Horton of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer , there are roughly the same amount of words in the certified ballot language for the five issues as are in the prologue and opening chapter of "The Da Vinci Code."

As that Tuesday comes closer voters can prepare themselves by reading the many available explanations of the issues (including right here at this site) or by reading the ballot language in advance (Issue 2, Issue 3, Issue 4, Issue 5). This should at least trim down the fifteen or so minutes it will take people to read the language in the booth.

Despite all these options, there's still no word yet on any explanation for the purpose of that goat.