SB5 repeal, the difficult second act

Like most compelling stories, the repeal of SB5 will be told in 3 acts.

The first act introduced us to the characters, and the main story element putting those characters at risk, and in confrontation with each other. The antagonists in our story are the Ohio GOP in the form of the legislators and Governor who passed SB5. Pitted against them are our protagonists, the working people of Ohio who will need to fight to preserve their rights to earn a decent living in safe working conditions.

Our protagonists responded to this assault, with over 10,000 volunteers going into their communities and collecting 1,298,301 signatures to place SB5 on the ballot for repeal, setting up the rising tension of act II.

Ordinarily, the second act could be expected to begin with a fight over whether this effort had collected enough signatures to qualify, but having collected over a million more than needed, no one expects this to present a problem.

The next issue to be resolved then will be the formulation of the ballot language. The Ohio Ballot Board will have to decide if the question is posed to voters as "shall the law take effect?” or "shall the law be repealed?" Conventional wisdom suggests it’s easier to get voters to vote “No”, rather than “Yes”, and precedent indicates that’s how the Board will decide the matter. Either option is likely to have little effect on the result.

The story will progress to the repeal campaign protagonists needing to identify and persuade voters, and the antagonists trying all manner of dirty tricks to stop them. So before we look at what that means, let’s take a look at how many voters will likely be needed to vote against SB5 in order for the campaign to prevail. Below is a table of voter turnout going back 15 years. In bold are the off-cycle years, as 2011 is (i.e. none gubernatorial or presidential elections.).

Year Total Votes Turnout Major Issue
2010 3,956,045 49.22% Gubenatorial
2009 3,292,374 44.64% Veterans, livestock, casino
2008 5,773,777 69.97% Presidential
2007 2,436,070 31.34% Local issues only
2006 4,185,597 53.25% Gubenatorial, min wage, casino, smoking ban
2005 3,093,968 40.26% State Bond issue, Reform Ohio Now
2004 5,722,443 71.77% Presidential, Gay Maririage Amendment
2003 2,614,354 36.62% State Bond Issue
2002 3,356,285 47.18% Gubenatorial
2001 2,574,915 36.00% Local issues only
2000 4,795,989 63.60% Presidential
1999 2,467,736 34.53% Local issues only
1998 3,534,782 49.81% Gubenatorial
1997 3,163,091 45.55% Bail, Workers Comp
1996 4,638,108 67.83% Presidential, Riverboat Casino

As you can see these off cycle years have lower turnout with variations that are greatly affected by whether and to some extent, what, state ballot initiatives are present. Ranging from almost 3.3 million in 2009, down to 2.4 million in 2007. It would be wise to think that 2011 will see turnout in the high end, if not the highest. With the GOP and Tea Party failing to get their healthcare countermeasure initiative on the ballot, the turnout battle will be solely fought on the grounds of SB5 repeal.

It would be safe to assume a high turnout – perhaps north of 3.3 million votes, which means the repeal campaign would need 1.7 million votes. The 1.3 million signatures is a great start, and will form the initial base with which to identify potential repeal supporters.

But not all those 1.3 million will be supporters, so in excess of 400,000 more voters will need to be identified – most likely a million more. These voter contacts will require massive volunteer efforts to call (phone bank) and contact in–person (canvass).

These signatories, plus union members and their households, Democrats and Independents (who according to polls favor repeal in the majority) will all be contacted at some point, either by telephone or in person, and most likely both, to determine if they can be relied upon to vote for repeal.

This is why continuing to enter signature data is critical. It is also a huge structural advantage that repealers have over the SB5 supporters – they have no such list from which to draw upon.

As potential voters are contacted they will be graded, typically on a scale of 1-5, on whether they support repeal or not. Those falling in the middle of that range will require persuasion, and that is where the nastiest of the fall campaign will be waged, for the hearts and minds of the undecided voter.

Both sides will be polling to determine what the best lines of attack and defense are. What messages work and what don’t. These polls, unless leaked, will never be made public – but everyone will feel their effects.

Typically one begins to see visible signs of political campaigns after Labor Day. TV, print and mail advertising will begin to bombard voters. The nastiest pieces will be sent via the mail, but in today’s political climate the TV ads won’t be much better.

Repeal supports should expect to see some very ugly TV ads as early as September as the SB5 supporters try and move the polls in their favor. This will be akin to probing the enemies’ lines looking for weaknesses.

In order to provide some inoculation to these inevitable attacks, the SB5 repeal campaign will also try to persuade voters of its case too. First with visibility events, and urging supporters to talk to friends, family, and coworkers, followed by extensive paid media efforts on TV, in print, and mail too.

By the time we reach this point, Act II will be coming to a close and we’ll be entering act III, final act – GOTV, or Get Out The Vote. We’ll discuss that in a later article.