Tea partiers threaten public education

Not content with the Governor's $3 billion dollar state budget assault on public education, tea partiers, supported by the far right "1851 Center for Constitutional Law" - an offshoot of the right wing Buckeye Institute, are seeking to assault public education funding at the local level too.

Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, a group that opposed a 6.9-mill levy that voters approved in March, has begun collecting signatures to repeal an equal portion of an 11.4-mill levy approved in 2009.

The group is reaching back to that levy because state law bars the repeal of temporary tax issues, such as the five-year levy passed this year. The 2009 tax issue is permanent.

This is a move so radical and extreme that it has only ever been proposed once in the history of the state. If the "Center for Constitutional law" really cared about the Ohio constitution and public education it would be lobbying for a constitutional funding formula for our schools instead of trying to defund them. But rather than do that, they have published a document that contains the broad tactics groups can use to defund public education, a document that contains such information as

Warning: if you follow the advice in this guide, proponents of higher spending and taxation will assert, as always, that children will suffer unless new levies are enacted, while current revenue sources are maintained. However, if you’ve read this far, you and your neighbors (1) have likely already heard and dispelled this argument; (2) are aware that your local school district has a spending problem, not a revenue problem; and (3) simply want to keep more of what you have rightfully earned, and want to this seemingly endless cycle of tax hikes to stop.

Clearly they think every district has a spending problem, and every citizen is over taxed - regardless of whether voters in places like Westerville disagreed by passing a levy just months ago. Their roadmap even includes this nugget:

(6) Keep a low profile. Remember, only once every five years can an attempt be made to reduce any given levy. If your school district’s teachers union gets wind of your plans too early in the process, they may quickly gather signatures and place a .000001 mil reduction of the levy tax on the ballot before you are able to gather and submit signatures for your more significant reduction.

Wanting to operate in the shadows was evident yesterday when confronted over twitter

@jointhefutureOH @DispatchEteam @dougcaruso @cbinkley We are all WCSD residents concerned about our schools' future-NOT a tea party group.

We responded

@TFWS1 Really? All just a coincidence you're involved with the 1851 center? Same agenda as the tea party, same support. Same, same.

As did others

@TFWS1 @jointhefutureOH Sounds like the tenets of the Tea Party? Why fight the association to Tea Party? What's the difference?

At this point, this tea party group tried to make ridiculous claims about the 1851 Constitutional Law Center

@ascheurer @jointhefutureOH They're a non-proft, non-partisan legal ctr dedicatd to protctng the constitut rights of Ohioans from govt abuse

A quick survey of their agenda and their board of directors quickly dispels any notion this is a non-partisan group.

What is striking about this recent move by the tea party to attack public education is their unwillingness to embrace their agenda. Instead, as the 1851 center urges, they want to "keep a low profile". We're going to see to it that that doesn't happen.

Three big issues to be decided by voters

Three significant issues look set to appear on the 2012 fall ballot. Much like the repeal of SB5, these issues center around attempts to ameliorate abusive political actions designed to disadvantage political opponents in order to fascilitate the easier passage of extreme legislation. Here's a quick look at each of them.

Repeal of HB194 - the "voter suppression" bill

A new poll commissioned by the Democratic organization fighting to repeal the election law overhaul known as House Bill 194 shows that 54 percent of Ohioans favor repeal compared to 31 percent who oppose it.

The poll comes as Republican lawmakers work on a plan to repeal House Bill 194 and replace it with some of the bill’s less-controversial components.

Given the apparent unpopularity of the bill, lawmakers look set to repeal the law themselves, before voters get a chance to weigh in.

Redistricting Reform

A group that made their initial filing of 1,000-plus signatures with Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday seeks to revamp the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn in Ohio.

385,000 valid signatures would be required, and to make the fall ballot, be complete by July 3rd. The constitutional amendment, called the Voters First Initiative, would end one-party control of re-districting and put the process in the hands of a 12-member citizens' commission, with equal members of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Any decision of the commission would require 7 votes.

State Official Recalls

Perhaps as a response to SB5, and the recall efforts going on in Wisconsin as a result of the Republicans anti-worker efforts there

Ohioans would be able to recall statewide elected officials under a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

A group calling itself the Recall Initiative Committee is collecting signatures to submit to Attorney General Mike DeWine. Portia A. Boulger, a Ross County resident who has been involved in dozens of grass-roots campaigns over the years, said Ohioans should be able to vote to recall state elected officials the same way they do county, state and other local elected leaders. That is not permitted now under state law.

Issue 2 Early Vote Rally

Early Vote Flyer

In other early voting news, it appears that the effort to collect enough signatures to delay the implementation of HB194 has been succesful. HB194, among other things would have reduced the early voting period from about 5 weeks to 3. This naturally would have impacted the effort to repeal SB5 by voting NO on issue 2.

Ohio officials are preparing for early voting to begin on Tuesday for the Nov. 8 general election because a challenge to a new election-reform law is expected to put the law on hold today.

Even though House Bill 194 is scheduled to become effective on Friday, county boards of election have girded for the possibility that it will be delayed and the election will be conducted under current state law, which permits more time for absentee and in-person voting.
Once the signatures are turned over to the Ohio secretary of state, the new law automatically will be put on hold. The signatures then will be sent to the 88 county election boards to be validated, a process estimated to take 10 to 15 days. If Fair Elections Ohio comes up short after the county boards’ count, it would have 10 days to gather more signatures.
Among other things, the law cuts early voting from 35 days before the election to 21 days by mail and 17 in person. It also limits in-person voting before the election by barring it on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and the three days prior to the election. If House Bill 194 were to take effect on Friday, voting by mail would begin on Oct. 18; in-person voting on Oct. 22.

Why Vote Absentee?

By voting absentee you can

  • Avoid lines on election day, which may discourage others from voting
  • Avoid the cold and rain, or unexpected events that may make it harder
  • Avoid any voting machine mishaps
  • Let the We Are Ohio campaign concentrate on getting less enthused voters to the polls on election day

Once you have voted, it’s time to ask those in your friends, family and neighbors team to vote absentee! Locking in as many No on Issue 2 votes as early as possible is critical to success on election day!

You may request an Absentee Ballot by…
Using the application form prescribed by the Secretary of State (Form 11-A) to apply for your absentee ballot.

You may return your absentee ballot to the Board of Elections by…
U.S. Mail: the return envelope containing your marked ballot must be postmarked no later than the day before the election and received by the board of elections no later than 10 days after a special, primary or general election.

In person, either by you or an eligible family member: your marked ballot, which must be sealed in the completed and signed identification envelope provided with the ballot, must be delivered to the board of elections office no later than the close of polls on Election Day.

Note: No voted ballot may be returned to a board of elections by fax or email. If a voted ballot is returned by fax or email, it will not be accepted, processed, or counted.

Your absentee ballot must be received by the Board of Elections for your county before 7:30 PM on Election Day to be counted!

Full instructions for absentee voting can be found on the Ohio Secretary of State's website, here. A list of all the county boards of elections, their addresses, phone numbers and emails can be found here.

Repealing SB5 isn't partisan, it's personal

Yesterday, over 600 labor leaders packed the pipefitters union hall on Kinnear Road in Columbus to discuss the next phase of the repeal effort. What is becoming clearer and clearer with each passing moment is the shear scale of the opposition to SB5. It was a mid July day with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees, yet people had come together in their hundreds for a closed to the press event, whose nature might usually attract only 30.

It's not just the numbers that should cause supporters of SB5 to take stock, but the breadth of opposition. The gathering represented over 2 million members, from public and private sector unions. While much focus has been placed on the direct assault on teachers, police and fire, private sector allies have stepped up and into the fray too, to lend their considerable support.

Everyone recognizing SB5 for what it is, a direct and indirect assault on working men and women in Ohio.

As if to punctuate this huge gathering, it happened, by coincidence, on the same the day that Secretary of State John Husted certified that voters would guaranteed the opportunity to repeal SB5 in November on the back of a record breaking signature collection effort

Secretary of State Jon Husted certified a state-record 915,456 valid signatures collected by a coalition seeking to repeal the Republican-backed law that weakens collective bargaining for public employees. Only 231,147 were needed to place a referendum on the ballot.

On June 29, We Are Ohio, the coalition opposed to Senate Bill 5, delivered nearly 1.3 million signatures to Husted's office for validation -- smashing the previous state record. Those signatures were shipped to their respective county boards of election for initial validation, and Husted was responsible for final certification.

In addition to cruising past the threshold for total number of valid signatures, We Are Ohio also collected signatures equal to 3 percent of the total vote cast in last year's gubernatorial election in all 88 counties -- which campaign spokesman Melissa Fazekas said was also a first in Ohio history.

The effort isn't massive because it's partisan, we see that all the time, it's massive because for millions of workers from across the political spectrum, it is personal.

Data shows massive and widespread opposition to SB5

These are some truly astonishing numbers released by the We Are Ohio campaign. It details the number of signatures collected in each county, and with a bit of math, the percentage of registered voters that represents. We've sorted the list to show which counties collected the most signatures as a percentage of voters.

Almost a quarter (in some cases more) of all registered voters in 10 or so counties signed the petition - included two of the largest counties in the state - Cuyahoga and Hamilton. We analyzed what turn out might look like in November, and this data can only confirm the worst fears of SB5 supporters - there is massive and widespread opposition to SB5.

County Total signatures Total registered voters Signatures as % registered voters
Lucas 89,610 317,046 28%
Monroe 2,884 10,272 28%
Adams 4,289 18,373 23%
Erie 11,962 53,980 22%
Hamilton 124,879 565,418 22%
Cuyahoga 206,235 978,267 21%
Jackson 4,991 23,283 21%
Mahoning 37,680 181,759 21%
Noble 1,860 8,814 21%
Coshocton 4,277 21,234 20%
Meigs 3,201 16,042 20%
Vinton 1,792 9,056 20%
Franklin 157,489 811,831 19%
Trumbull 27,846 149,685 19%
Athens 8,984 49,440 18%
Hocking 3,351 18,634 18%
Belmont 8,102 47,834 17%
Gallia 3,395 21,535 16%
Guernsey 4,059 25,810 16%
Lake 25,323 157,732 16%
Lorain 32,996 206,660 16%
Madison 3,857 24,792 16%
Pickaway 5,397 32,751 16%
Ross 7,126 45,332 16%
Scioto 7,534 47,167 16%
Summit 60,002 371,028 16%
Medina 19,260 125,684 15%
Ottawa 4,682 30,395 15%
Pike 2,814 19,120 15%
Sandusky 5,740 39,531 15%
Stark 40,772 267,350 15%
Tuscarawas 9,159 59,920 15%
Ashtabula 9,246 65,801 14%
Crawford 3,988 29,170 14%
Defiance 3,731 26,347 14%
Delaware 17,070 119,690 14%
Fayette 2,268 16,312 14%
Jefferson 7,256 51,116 14%
Seneca 5,328 37,148 14%
Wayne 10,613 75,097 14%
Fairfield 13,813 102,716 13%
Licking 14,708 113,245 13%
Marion 5,485 41,017 13%
Perry 3,186 23,712 13%
Portage 14,393 110,446 13%
Wood 13,045 103,312 13%
Clark 10,883 92,438 12%
Columbiana 8,482 71,043 12%
Lawrence 5,514 47,438 12%
Morgan 1,067 9,240 12%
Muskingum 6,296 54,477 12%
Richland 10,274 87,138 12%
Allen 7,865 69,931 11%
Butler 27,648 240,541 11%
Clermont 14,128 132,696 11%
Fulton 3,496 30,562 11%
Geauga 7,014 65,507 11%
Harrison 1,251 11,266 11%
Henry 2,341 20,582 11%
Huron 3,926 36,993 11%
Knox 4,395 40,304 11%
Montgomery 44,016 385,652 11%
Warren 15,457 135,490 11%
Washington 4,663 42,740 11%
Ashland 3,653 35,768 10%
Brown 3,012 29,579 10%
Carroll 2,040 19,838 10%
Hardin 1,884 18,224 10%
Morrow 2,500 25,986 10%
Paulding 1,361 13,407 10%
Putnam 2,110 24,328 9%
Williams 2,391 25,542 9%
Wyandot 1,334 15,567 9%
Champaign 2,081 26,707 8%
Greene 9,891 116,552 8%
Hancock 4,115 54,834 8%
Miami 5,896 71,894 8%
Preble 2,405 28,323 8%
Union 2,683 34,147 8%
Van Wert 1,729 20,406 8%
Auglaize 2,326 32,800 7%
Clinton 1,783 26,722 7%
Shelby 2,294 31,973 7%
Highland 1,725 27,608 6%
Logan 1,760 30,865 6%
Mercer 1,817 28,609 6%
Holmes 802 17,807 5%
Darke 1,579 35,378 4%
Total 1,297,565 8,037,806 16.1%

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.