OHIO — Two issues have made their way through the Ohio House and Senate to be voted on this November. They are State Issue 1, known as the Community Safety Amendment and State Issue 2, known as the Citizenship Voting Requirement Amendment.
What You Need To Know
- Ohio’s midterm election is coming up on Nov. 8
- The last day to register to vote is Oct. 11
- Two state issues are on the ballot in Ohio
- Issue 1 is known as the Community Safety Amendment and Issue 2 is known as the Citizenship Voting Requirement Amendment
Issue 1 would make it clear in the Ohio Constitution that a judge is required to, when setting the amount of bail for a criminal defendant, consider public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, as well as a person's criminal record, and the likelihood a person will return to court. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost not only supports the amendment, he helped write it.
“Look, the first function of government is to keep our streets safe,” Yost said. “It doesn't matter how good your parks and your schools are if you're afraid to go out on the street. And for a long, long time in America, we've had this system of bail that makes sure that dangerous people are held on charges pending their trial. This is just a matter of public safety.”
Opponents of the amendment said our criminal justice system is broken and unfairly impacts poor people and people of color. They said it keeps them in jail despite the constitution saying people are innocent until proven guilty. They said Issue 1 would only positively impact the bail bonds industry.
“What is happening is some some elected politicians did not like a Supreme Court ruling that came out in January called Dubos V. McGuffey. This constitutional amendment is an attempt to overturn that Supreme Court decision,” said Kevin Werner from the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. “What Issue 1 wants to do is say that you're guilty until proven innocent, and therefore, you have to pay all of this money in order to be released, or, more likely, what happens is the judge will set that bail amount, that money amount so high, that there's no way the person is going to be able to pay it. So therefore, they're detaining them pretrial.”
Werner said he thinks Ohioans are misunderstanding this issue. He said judges in Ohio already consider public safety when considering bail, making this amendment redundant.
“Judges make public safety considerations every day,” Werner said. “What McGuffey said was you don't use cash to make public safety considerations. You use non-financial conditions, you use home confinement, use ankle monitoring, use all kinds of other things in order to ensure someone is going to come back for trial and to ensure that a person is not a threat to the community.”
Yost said let’s do both, have public safety and improve our existing bail system. Werner said that’s not how it works. He said tying money to public safety is a false sense of security.
“You don't use money because again, a wealthy defendant who's violent and dangerous just pays the bond and is released,” Werner said. “I don't think there's a person in our state that doesn't value and really want public safety. But you don't tie public safety to how much money can a person pay. It's a false narrative, a false sense of security. The better policy that Ohio should be doing is looking at how it runs its pretrial detention.”
Yost said this issue has passed through the House and the Senate and is now up to the people of Ohio to decide.
“After the state Supreme Court decision, unless we amend the state constitution, there isn't anything that our lawmakers can do to remedy the situation,” Yost said. “We need to go over the heads of the lawmakers to their bosses, the people of Ohio.”
According to an exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College Research Institute poll, 82 percent of respondents support Issue 1 and 8 percent would vote against it.
The poll was conducted Sept. 18-22, and has a 4.4% margin-of-error.
Issue 2 would prohibit non-U.S. citizens from voting in local elections. Currently, non-U.S. citizens are not able to vote in federal or state elections but Ohio is a home rule state meaning it allows its local governments to make legislative decisions that are best for their community. This amendment would change the language in Ohio’s Constitution so that only U.S. citizens can vote in all elections.
“It changes just one or two items in the Constitution that essentially say that you have to have the same status as an elector to vote in any election in Ohio, not just state and federal elections. And again, to be an elector in Ohio means that you are not an incarcerated felon, that you're over 18 and that you are a U.S. citizen,” said Frank LaRose, Secretary of State.
According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, it appears that only one Ohio municipality allows non-citzens to vote in local elections and that municipality is the Village of Yellow Springs.
“These are actively engaged citizens who participate in our community and they deserve to have their ideas reflected in our local decision making,” said Brian Housh, the President of Council for the Village of Yellow Springs.
Yellow Springs is a community of about 3,800 people and, according to the census, has about 27 people who fit into the category of being a non-citzen. In 2020, the community voted to approve a charter amendment to allow non-citizens to vote in their local elections.
“We honestly didn't realize it was going to become such a big deal,” Housh said. “We didn't do this to poke the bear. You know, we did it in response to feedback that we got back from our community members.”
Housh said it is what's best for his local community. He said Yellow Springs is known to be a place that’s welcoming to all and values diversity and inclusion.
“I think it's no different from other highly functioning local governments and businesses and so forth, is, the more diversity you do have, in terms of ideas, the better decisions are made,” said Housh. “The idea that the state is making decisions that counter the interests of local jurisdictions and those citizens is highly problematic. We're very concerned about taking away home rule powers. And, you know, for municipalities to not be able to effectively respond to their citizens' needs, creates a lot of problems.”
Supporters of the amendment, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said American elections, large or small, should only be available to American citizens.
“Citizenship has value, it has status. That status is that you can be a registered voter, and I predict that a group of new Americans would tell you to protect the integrity of our elections and to protect the value of citizenship by making sure that only citizens can vote in our elections,” said LaRose.
LaRose said he’s been to many naturalization ceremonies and said often the first thing people do, after they hug a friend or family member, is register to vote.
‘We want to encourage people to join our big American family by becoming American citizens, we want them to take the test and pass the test of citizenship, you know, be able to speak English and become part of the American fabric of our community, just like so many of our ancestors did in past generations,” said LaRose.
LaRose said allowing non-citizens to vote would also be an administrative burden to local boards of elections.
“If you were to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, you would have to set up an entirely separate parallel system for voter registration, for maintaining the accuracy of those voter rolls, they'd have to vote on different voting equipment that would be set aside specifically for those non-citizen voters,” LaRose said.
Housh said they already spoke to their county board of elections, which said it would be no problem to accommodate the non-citzen voters.
“We got clear assurance from the Greene County Board of Elections, that this was something that they could definitely handle,” Housh said. “And I think also it reminds me of, you know, we have during primaries, different ballots for Democrats or Republicans.”
LaRose said it comes down to protecting the value of American citizenship. Housh said for Yellow Springs, it comes down to the principle of home rule, the idea that local governments know what’s best for their citizens.
“Yellow Springs is very clear about wanting to promote diversity, equality, inclusion and social justice. And so I think many people see those elements related to this kind of decision,” Housh said. “But, you know, we want to stand with other municipalities that are concerned about that loss of local control and do whatever we can to preserve those elements that are part of our Constitution.”
According to our exclusive Spectrum News poll in collaboration with Siena College, 59 percent of respondents say they’ll vote yes for the amendment and 38 percent said they’ll vote no.
The last day to register to vote in Ohio’s midterm Election is Oct. 11.