Who Really Won?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hope In Ohio?

The Ohio secretary of state announced yesterday that a series of election-related constitutional amendments had qualified for the November ballot, including one intended to strip Republican elected officials of their control over drawing legislative districts.

The amendments are sponsored by Reform Ohio Now, a coalition dominated by Democrats, unions and watchdog groups. It celebrated the announcement and said a statewide campaign to win approval in November had begun.

"It's not like we're posting yard signs yet, but we're close to that," the campaign manager of Reform Ohio Now, Scarlett Bauder, said. "Right now the time is ripe for reform."

The State Supreme Court rejected last month a Republican-backed move to disqualify the measures, but a second suit by a former Republican state senator is to be heard tomorrow in an appeals court in Columbus.

The former senator, Richard H. Finan, wants the amendments declared invalid because Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell allowed Reform Ohio Now to use out-of-state signature gatherers.

Mr. Finan has said the redistricting measure, if approved, could cost Republicans in Ohio 6 of their 12 seats in Congress and would probably inspire similar Democratic-backed efforts in other states dominated by Republicans.

A spokesman for the Ohio First Education Fund, a group founded by Mr. Finan, said Republicans were moving forward with fund-raising in case they lost the court battle.

The spokesman, David L. Hopcraft, said the campaign was drawing money from outside the state because of Ohio's significance as a swing state in presidential elections, though he did not give specific dollar amounts.

"If the issues make it to the ballot," Mr. Hopcraft said, "we will have a vigorous campaign that speaks to the ballot-box power of every Ohioan, which we think is clearly threatened under these amendments."

"These issues," he added, "are being backed by people who did not like the results of the last election and want to nullify Ohio's vote."

Ms. Bauder said Reform Ohio Now, which has raised $1.2 million, had enemies on both sides of the aisle.

"To me, that says it is true reform, because people in both parties don't like it," she said.