Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
Issue two defeated
Mercer County backs Senate Bill 5
By Shelley Grieshop
The state's collective bargaining law - Senate Bill 5 - was overwhelming axed by voters statewide Tuesday, but local results were quite different.
Mercer County was one of six counties that voted to keep the law, with 55 percent in favor of Issue 2. Auglaize County residents voted to nix the legislation by a slim margin of 51 percent.
Statewide, 61 percent voted to repeal the legislation.
Carrol Jeffries of Celina said the statewide victory sends a message to Gov. John Kasich and Ohio lawmakers.
"The Ohio middle class did not create the budget shortfalls and using them as a scapegoat and the vilification of public union employees is appalling," she said. "Today is only the beginning.
"The sleeping giant that is the people's movement has been energized and will continue to fight for workers' rights, human rights and all middle class citizens," she added. "We can enjoy our victory for workers today, but need to be ready to fight again tomorrow against the radical agenda of the GOP."
Bob McCune of St. Marys agreed.
"I have a strong feeling that public workers' pay and benefits will be revisited, however, I think that the negotiation process will not be skipped this time," he said. "Lawmakers need to be ready to trim 'pork' from more than one place in the state budget."
Matt Gilmore, a local attorney and chairman of the Mercer County Republican Party, said the outcome of Issue 2 was disappointing but certainly not a crushing blow to the Republican Party or Kasich. Heavy funding by unions helped defeat the issue, he said.
"Labor and the Ohio Democratic Caucus outspent the proponents of Issue 2 almost three to one and their campaign consisted of half-truths and misinformation," he said. "The fear stirred up by opponents of the measure was, in my opinion, a driving force for the outcome."
He reminded Issue 2 opponents about the success of Issue 3 - voters Tuesday rejected President Obama's national health care reform bill.
"If there is a message from that, it is that Ohio is not a lock for President Obama next year," he said.
Toni Slusser, a member of the Mercer County Board of Elections, said as a government worker she has mixed emotions about the fall of SB 5. She should be pleased with Tuesday's outcome but has great concerns about the cost public workers place on taxpayers by retiring with full pensions and benefits much earlier than private sector workers.
"Most of your teachers, hospital workers ... retire by the time they're 55 (years old)," she said, adding others retire even earlier. "No wonder the state's broke."
SB 5, which was passed in March with full support of the governor, limited collective bargaining and banned strikes by public employees. It would have allowed Ohio's 350,000 public workers - such as teachers, police officers and firefighters - to negotiate wages and working conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It also required them to contribute at least 10 percent toward their pension and 15 percent for health insurance and would have eliminated teachers' automatic raises in favor of wages based on performance.
Kasich and fellow supporters promoted the law as a means for local governments to save money and keep workers. The effort was supported by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, farmers and others.
Local turnout above state average:
Voter turnout Tuesday in the Grand Lake area was slightly higher than the 46 percent tallied statewide.
In Mercer County, nearly 52 percent of registered voters headed to the polls, down 4 percent from November 2010 and identical to November 2009, when numerous state issues were on the ballot.
In Auglaize County, voter turnout was 49 percent, a dip of 2.6 percent from November 2010 but an increase of more than 2 percent from two years ago.
Late-night tallies show 15,020 Mercer County residents made it to the polls. Auglaize County voters numbered 16,109.
The vote on Issue 2 contributed to Ohio's highest voter turnout in 20 years for an off-year general election. The Secretary of State's office said the 46 percent turnout was the highest for an odd-year election since 1991, when 51.3 percent voted.
Officials from board of elections in Mercer and Auglaize counties said all went well Tuesday in each precinct.
"Everything went pretty smoothly," Auglaize County director Carolyn Campbell said this morning.
The county received 230 provisional ballots this year - 55 fewer than last year's November election, she added. Campbell said most were due to address changes.
"A lot of young people hadn't voted since 2008 (the presidential election) and had moved," she said.
Auglaize County officials also received 1,648 absentee ballots - down from 2,435 in 2010, she said.
Mercer County Board of Elections Director Deb Sneddon also noted no big problems throughout the day. At least one of the precincts will need more machines in the future, but it didn't create a huge issue, she said.
The use of electronic poll books helped workers verify addresses and identify voters much quicker, Sneddon said.
Mercer County received 261 provisional ballots for this year's General Election, compared to 246 in November 2010. Absentee ballots increased; officials received 3,100 absentee ballots this year, up from 2,930 last year.
Board of elections officials have 15 days to announce official results from Tuesday's election.
- Shelley Grieshop