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2011 Election Recap

As expected, Ohio voters came out to the polls in droves on November 8, as voter turnout was the highest in more than 70 years for an “off-year” general election – 46 percent, with over 3.5 million ballots cast. Many voters were motivated by the contentious state ballot issue battle over Senate Bill 5, Ohio’s collective bargaining bill enacted earlier this session.

The first of three state issues was a referendum to raise the retirement age for Ohio Supreme Court justices along with other changes related to the court. Issue 1 handily was rejected by a 62 to 38 percent margin.

Issue 2, the referendum that asked voters to approve or reject SB5, was soundly defeated 61 percent to 39 percent. Senate Bill 5, supported by Governor Kasich and the Republican majorities of the Ohio House and Senate, attempted to reform Ohio’s 28-year-old collective bargaining law governing public employees. The bill sought to restrict public employees’ ability to collectively bargain for wages; set payments for health insurance and pensions; and, prohibit public employees from striking.

Governor Kasich and Republican legislators believed the legislation was necessary to help local governments control costs, while cutting state funds to local governments in the biennial budget. Opponents of the legislation believed the bill was an attack on unions and middle-class Ohioans who already are sharing the cost of the bad economy in their negotiations. Governor Kasich responded on election night that it was clear that the people have spoken, with Republican leadership acknowledging they would not take up the issue of collective bargaining further during this General Assembly.

Voters passed State Issue 3, 66 percent to 34 percent, which amends the Ohio Constitution to prohibit any law from compelling an individual to participate in a health care plan. The measure was touted as exempting Ohio an individual mandate, the part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine starting in 2014. However, that law’s constitutionality will likely be determined by the United States Supreme Court, which could override any Ohio law or constitutional amendment. Opponents of the measure worry that the language is overly broad.

Locally, only about half of the 187 local school levies on area ballots were passed by voters. While voters were willing to support public employees’ bargaining rights, many school districts and local governments are now assessing how to deal with a loss of support on local levies.

Looking forward, the defeat of Issue 2, which was battled along partisan lines, could impact the agenda and tenor of the remainder of the biennial legislative session, as well as next year’s elections. Additionally, the passage of Issue 3 could have overreaching consequences on state public services and regulations that drafters did not necessarily intend. Overall, as we near the end of an exciting political year, all eyes now fully turn to 2012’s presidential race.

For more insight on the elections, grassroots opportunities or public policy, contact Katie Rogers, Director of Public Policy at (614) 545-9032 or

ISSUE 1 (Raising Judges’ Retirement Age)
Yes: 1,227, 505 (38%)
No: 2,005,185 (62%)

ISSUE 2 (Collective Bargaining/SB5)
Yes: 1,330,013 (39%)
No: 2,115,404 (61%)

ISSUE 3 (Individual Mandate)
Yes: 2,182,076 (66%)
No: 1,147,154 (34%)