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Ohio: Ballot Measures a Test of Voter Anger

Ohio voters will head to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes on a variety of ballot initiatives aimed at reforming the state's government, and the results will surely be pored over for signs of the true level of disaffection among the Buckeye State's electorate.

The four proposals put on the ballot by Reform Ohio Now -- a coalition of liberal groups -- cover a range of electoral reforms from taking control of elections out of the hands of the secretary of state to removing the power to redraw legislative and congressional districts from the state legislature.

The congressional districting question -- State Issue 4 -- has the broadest potential impact on the national scene but also the least chance of passage. In a Columbus Dispatch poll released over the weekend, 45 percent opposed the proposal, 31 percent supported it and 25 percent didn't know where they stood.  (One side note on the CD poll -- it is done by mail and as a result was in the field from Oct. 24 to Nov.3 -- an unusually long time for a survey.)

The measure would create an independent commission to draw the state's legislative and congressional districts. The current lines were crafted by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Bob Taft (R) in 2001. If State Issue 4 passes, the congressional lines would be redrawn in 2007, a move that would likely benefit Democrats, who currently hold only six of the state's 18 House seats.

National Democrats have not been financially active in support of the Ohio redistricting measure, perhaps because the party's House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), has helped raise $10 million (or more) to fight a similar proposal on the ballot tomorrow in California, where Democrats are a majority of the House delegation.

Should all four measures supported by Reform Ohio Now pass (an unlikely occurrence given the current polling state of the redistricting effort), it will be read by strategists both locally and nationally as a warning sign to Republicans, especially Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) -- one of Democrats' top targets in next year's midterm election.

In the Dispatch poll, DeWine trailed Rep. Sherrod Brown 35 percent to 31 percent and held a narrow 32 percent to 31 percent edge over Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett (D). Brown and Hackett will face off in a primary to see who will take on DeWine next fall.

For more information on current state of political play in Ohio, make sure to read David Broder's excellent Sunday Post column. And for details on the ballot measures, see the Ohio Secretary of State's Web site.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 7, 2005; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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