Congressman Oxley announces retirement

The Toledo Blade reported moments ago that Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Findlay) would retire at the end of his term next year.

Mr. Oxley, 61, who has represented Ohio’s 4th Congressional District since 1981, cited House rules requiring him the relinquish his chairmanship of the powerful House Financial Services Committee at the end of this term as one of the factors in his decision. He must give up his chairmanship due to term limits.

“After a lot of thought and conversations with a lot of people…I’ve decided not to seek re-election next year,” Mr. Oxley told a crowd of about 200 people during a breakfast at the Findlay Country Club. “It was a tough decision.”

Congressman Oxley announces retirement

More later as events warrant plus I’ll add my 2 cents.

Election reform in Ohio gets heated

November 8th will see the attempt to reform the election process in Ohio. After the many corruption incidents with in State government and the problems with the elections in 2004 that drew unwanted attention from the rest of the country and the world, a group called Reform Ohio Now formed and got 4 issues on the ballot that address the major problems with Ohio’s current system.

Of course there is an opposition group called Ohio First that has just started airing adverts on TV as we come closer to the vote.

In the ad I saw I was struck on how vague it was and the use of buzzwords to create a negative feeling about the proposed issues. It talked about “special interest groups” being behind the issues. It said if the issues passed “voters would lose their voice” and the new process “wouldn’t be accountable” to the voter. The ad said that Ohioans would “lose their voice”.

Well I wanted to get some details and went to their site to read what they have to say. Here are their words with my comments:

Argument Against Issue 2

First, the adoption of this amendment is likely to lead to a significant increase in cases of fraudulent voting in Ohio, as experienced in other states that have adopted similar proposals. The proposed amendment does not contain a reliable method to protect the integrity of votes cast early, nor does it provide adequate safeguards to ensure that only eligible and qualified voters would be able to use these procedures.

Second, this amendment is not necessary because Ohio law already contains generous absentee voting provisions. Currently, any Ohio voter with a legitimate reason for being absent on Election Day can obtain an absentee ballot. In fact, there are 16 reasons that allow absentee voting under current Ohio law, including: military service; health and physical disability issues; work related issues; being age 62 or older; or, simply that the voter expects to be absent from the county on Election Day for personal reasons.

Third, the proposed amendment does not ensure that every Ohioan will have the same opportunity to vote early. The amendment does not establish a statewide standard that must be followed for designation of times and locations for early voting. The rules governing early voting could vary widely from county to county, because the amendment gives each county Board of Elections the discretion to designate the times and locations for early voting.

Because Ohio has absentee voting and provisional ballots (where people can vote on the day of an election if they had moved and not changed their registration before the normal registration deadline), there are laws on the books to qualify such ballots. The proposed amendment doesn’t change that. All the proposed amendment adds is that people can cast ballots at 35 days before the election WITHOUT having to give a reason. The amendment doesn’t prohibit the legislature from creating more laws to qualify such ballots. The actual text to the amendment starts “Any qualified elector entitled to vote in an election…” so it is assumed such ballots will be treated like absentee and provisional ballots are now (names checked in registration and votes counted 10 days after the election etc…).

Argument Against Issue 3

The proposed amendment would change how Ohio political campaigns are funded to benefit the wealthy and labor unions, to the disadvantage of all other Ohioans.

The proposed amendment allows labor unions to funnel unlimited amounts of money into the political process through a new type of political organization that is deceptively labeled a �small donor� action committee. In addition, there would be no obligation placed on labor unions to provide full disclosure regarding the source of this money, that could even be given by non-Ohio sources.

The proposed amendment would give an unfair advantage to wealthy candidates because they would be permitted to use unlimited amounts of personal money in their campaigns. However, unlike Ohio’s current law, the proposed amendment would not permit an individual running against a wealthy opponent to raise additional campaign dollars to make the election competitive.

The proposed amendment would also place drastic restrictions on the ability of all other Ohioans to raise money to combat the undue influence of the wealthy and labor unions in Ohio elections. These restrictions are designed to silence the voices of ordinary Ohioans in the elections process.

Actually there are limits to the amount of money a particular grouping can donate. The “small donor” action committee mentioned above are limited as are the most common contribution – the multi-state action committee and regular Political Action Committee (PAC). Contributions to the “small donor” section is $50 per person.

Here’s the a brief section from the actual text of the amendment:

Contributions to a Candidate for Member of the General Assembly
$500 from a political action committee (PAC) or a campaign committee
$1,000 from an individual or a multi-candidate political committee
$10,000 from a small donor action committee
$25,000 combined from all affiliated national, state, county, and local political parties

Contributions to a County or Local Political Party
$1,000 from an individual, PAC, or committee for all purposes;
$2,000 from a multi-candidate political committee for all purposes;
$5,000 from a small donor action committee for all purposes

Text of Proposed Amendments

Recently in Ohio, the limits were raised from $2,500 to $10,000. This means an individual can contribute up to $20,000 a year to a candidate. This floods the electoral system with excessive amounts of special-interest money, squeezing out and limiting the influence of the average Ohio citizen. Also major contributors get special consideration in getting state contracts. That is how Tom Noe got the state involved in his rare coin investments at the heart of a current scandal. There was also the scandal involving contracts given for the new schools program. Those contracts of course went to the largest contributors to the current administration. Amendment 3 would severely put a crimp in the usual “pay to play” system in use now.

Argument Against Issue 4

First, the amendment would remove from the control of Ohio voters the power to establish districts for the Ohio General Assembly and the U.S. Congress, by abolishing the role of elected public officials in these important tasks. The proposed amendment would place this power in the hands of a new commission that is made up of 5 political appointees. Two of the commission members would be selected by judges and the others may be chosen by lot. The members of the commission would not be required to meet any minimum level of qualifications. Once appointed, the commissioners would serve for an indefinite period of time, and would never be accountable to Ohio voters.

Second, the proposed amendment would grant the commission virtually unlimited power to spend Ohio tax dollars, with essentially no control by Ohio voters or other state leaders. No other state commission has this extraordinary spending power.

Third, the proposed amendment would remove the current protection in the Ohio constitution that prevents the dilution of your vote. The proposed amendment would also delete from the Ohio Constitution the provisions designed to prevent �gerrymandering,� and would permit the creation of legislative districts that break up communities and neighborhoods.

Finally, the proposed amendment would remove from the Ohio Constitution the authority of Ohio’s courts to review the commission’s activities. Therefore, unlike all other Ohio public officials, political subdivisions, boards, commissions, and agencies, Ohio citizens would have virtually no ability to challenge the actions of this elected commission in Ohio’s courts. The commission should not be uniquely unaccountable and placed above the law.

The members of the commission would have to be a qualified elector (a voter) of Ohio and cannot be an elected official. Two are appointed by two separate judges and those two members appoint the other two from each party and one independent person. Any qualified elector can submit a plan for redistricting and the plan adopted has to score high on the criteria stated in the amendment. The first priority is to have competitive districts and end the usual “safe seat” scam we see now.

The other important part of the amendment is that ALL the proceedings have to be conducted in open meetings and minutes have to be available to the public.

Ohio First charges that the amendment removes the authority of the court to review the commission’s activities. The actual text puts that responsibility onto the legislature as it should be and commission members can be removed from office. The Ohio Supreme Court does have a part in the process but it can’t choose a plan or force the commission to pick a particular one.

Argument Against Issue 5

First, the proposed amendment would effectively end the local control over Ohio elections that is currently exercised by our bipartisan county elections boards.

Second, the proposed amendment would create a new statewide elections board that would consist of members who are politically appointed for 9-year terms, and would never be accountable to Ohio voters.

Third, the proposed amendment would eliminate the role of Ohio’s Secretary of State in Ohio’s election system. The new statewide board of political appointees would replace our elected Secretary of State. The proponents of this amendment clearly distrust the ability of Ohio voters to choose a public official to be in charge of Ohio’s election system.

Fourth, the proposed amendment would essentially give the appointed elections board a �blank check� to spend any and all tax dollars that it desires. The proposed amendment does not explain why it is necessary to give this group of political appointees the power to spend unlimited amounts of tax dollars, without being accountable to Ohio voters or elected Ohio public officials.

Well the 88 counties in Ohio have county boards of elections that act just like the proposed state board of elections. If that model is fine for the counties then why not the state?

This independent board would take over the duties that are currently performed by the Ohio secretary of state so “local control” is not even part of the proposed amendment – that would continue as usual.

The “political appointees” Ohio First talks about are appointed by the Governor and legislature. Their inference that the board in not accountable is false. Yes they have long terms but they are still appointed by the people we vote for. This isn’t any different than how local boards are appointed and the amendment requires the state board be bi-partisan.

The state board doesn’t have a blank check. The funding must come from the legislature and the only requirement is that it be fair and reasonable – just like any agency of the state government.

Ohio First is hoping that voters will not be that informed and will fall for their scare tactics. The amendments will take the politics and the money out of governing our state and will give the voter more of a voice. It will force redistricting and elections out of the smoke filled back rooms and into the public light so we can all see how they are working.

Ohio Republicans don’t want democratic elections

This November, Ohioans will have a chance to make a fundamental change in the way elections are operated in the state. From donation limits, to independent redistricting, to “no-excuse” absentee balloting, and to removing politics from the administration of election, the four proposed constitutional amendments would try to make up for the joke of an election the state had in 2004 when we joined Florida as a laughing stock of the nation.

Of course the Republicans are against it as it might threaten their 10 year hold on the legislature and state elective offices as well as the number of the GOP sent to Congress.

Issue 2 would allow Ohioans to vote early or to vote by mail, ensuring easy access to elections. Issue 3 would put tough limits on campaign contributions, reducing the influence of money in politics. Issue 4 would create an independent redistricting commission to take the power to draw legislative districts out of the hands of partisan lawmakers. Issue 5 would remove partisan politicians from the administration of state elections.

Issue 4 is the most controversial.

Currently a panel made up of legislators draw districts after each census. Since how the districts are drawn can influence who gets elected and who doesn’t, the party in power tries to make as many districts “safe” for their candidate and protects their “majority” in the state house. They draw them in such away to remove the possibility of any serious competition by stocking the district with their party faithful. Since the party in power stocks the district it is near impossible for a candidate from another party to get elected.

With these “safe” seats the people in the district have little or no say on which candidate they can vote on as that is decided behind close doors.

In some cases, a current legislator is “promoted” to a state wide office or agency. That person then resigns their district seat and their party’s central committee appoints a person to fill the seat until the next election, then it being a “safe” seat, it amounts to the committee choosing who will be the representative for years to come with no input from the voters he/she are suppose to represent.

Issue 4 would stop the politicians from drawing their own legislative districts and puts an Independent Commission in charge of this process. It would return accountability to voters where it belongs.

In 2002, the nearby village of New Rome was in the news because of the undemocratic operation of the village council. It had not even bothered with elections they simply “reappointed themselves.” Half of the council members were found not to be in office legally. Even though there was a general lack of interest, from the residents, in the council positions, the state still passed a law that allowed it to force the town of 60 to go out of business.,_Ohio

If state legislators find the operation of New Rome to be so abhorrent to the principles of democracy that they passed a law to close it down, then it makes one wonder why they seem to be against protecting the same principles when they are subverted on the state level with created “safe” seats.

Reform Ohio Now

Common Sense Reforms for Ohio

“Statewide election proposals fare well” – Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch – 10/01/05

How did Bush win Ohio in 2004?

On May 15th, 2005, the Columbus Dispatch published a detailed analysis of the vote that day based on information from the Secretary of State’s office.

It shows that while Kerry won the major cities, except Cincinnati, Bush and the GOP crushed Kerry in the rural areas. They did it by a massive get-to-the-polls push in the 3 days before the election. The GOP targeted likely Bush voters using marketing data.

The other points found that led to the Bush victory in November: it was the first presidential election since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, the country was at “war”, Bush had a unique relationship with religious conservatives, and state Issue 1 was on the Ohio ballot (banning Gay marriage).

I put together a couple of the articles and the graphs on a mini-site for those interested in reading more:

“Moral Values” cause ignorance

Here is a look at “moral values” that some continue to insist decided the 2004 Presidential Election. The first view is from the Red area with a rebuttal from a Blue state supporter:

Conservatives in rural Ohio big key in Bush victory

OTTAWA, Ohio (AP) – Glen Beutler lost his job making patio doors when his employer shut down three years ago.

He was exactly the kind of voter John Kerry was counting on to help him defeat President Bush.

Instead, Beutler and many of his neighbors across rural Ohio worried about the economy voted for Bush because they felt he shared their values on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and gun owner rights.

“Around here, family and values still comes first,” Beutler said.

“It was nice to see the rural people have the advantage this time,” said Cora Bour, the GOP chairwoman in Seneca County.

“In our area, we have a lot of farmers and people who are just down to earth,” she said. “A lot of people see that in President Bush. A lot of it had to do with his faith too. That’s the way we are around here.”

Am I Blue?
I apologize for everything I believe in. May I go now?

By Michael Kinsley

Sunday, November 7, 2004 Washington Post

There’s just one little request I have. If it’s not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don’t mind, that is.) It’s true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values — as deplorable as I’m sure they are — don’t involve any direct imposition on you. We don’t want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don’t, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don’t claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

I simply find it amazing that people will vote against their best interests for the sake of “moral values”. Our government was created to protect the rights of all citizens. It is highly unamerican for a group to pass laws or support candidates who want to discriminate simply because “they” don’t like what they want to outlaw.

As Kinsley said, how arrogant is that?

The same people who voted against Kerry because he “might” want to ban guns (though he never said it) are the same ones who want to prevent a group of people from committing to the person they love in a legal union.

They are the same people who want to force women to carry unwanted babies to term yet don’t bat an eye at the government sending their children into a war that was not needed and hasn’t made the nation safer.

They are the same people who trust Bush with the economy even when they lose their jobs or savings to unethical business practices allowed and encouraged by the same administration.

A friend of mine tried to say, before the election, that the electorate was ignorant if they voted for Bush. I tried to dissuade him from saying that with no evidence. Now I am coming around to his way of thinking.