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Fair weather helps get out the vote in Columbus as Ohio anti-collective-bargaining law up for voter approval

Update added, 7:10 p.m. EST

The beautiful weather in Ohio Tuesday may seal the fate of Senate Bill 5, the state’s new anti-collective-bargaining law that was placed on the ballot via the state referendum Issue 2. Poll workers in Central Ohio are reporting much higher turnout than is usual for an off-year election, especially for a ballot with three state issues and only local candidates.

Poll workers are also expressing confidence in their training and readiness to handle last-minute surprises, said Jarvis Carr, a election worker in Columbus.

“In fact, the training emphasizes problems and challenges, but 95-percent of voters are ready to vote,” noted Carr. “They have their IDs, they’re at the right polling location and they are ready to go.”

A casual look at the lists of voters that had already cast ballots, required to be posted in a public place at all precincts, showed that even before noon, the columns were filling up with ‘X’s, indicating that many in the precinct had found time to make it to the polls.

Alesia Richardson, polling precinct manager of a polling station in the relatively affluent Victorian Village neighborhood of Columbus (The American Independent is headed out to more polling locations as the day goes on), said she found herself working harder than usual this year.

“We’ve been very busy, unusually so,” she said. “It must be the issues that’s bringing them in.”

Ohio voters are deciding on SB5 through Issue 2, which has placed a spotlight on the Midwestern state as labor’s last stand. Laws that severely curb public employee unions’ rights to negotiate have passed in Wisconsin and New Jersey, states that don’t have Ohio’s constitutional ability for citizens to reject unpopular laws in referendum.

Other issues on the ballot include an increase in the age limit for new judges and Issue 3, a tea party-led initiative to prevent the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through an amendment to the state’s constitution. Recent polls show Issue 3 is headed for defeat, although there’s some indication of voter confusion about the language, as Republicans polled more negatively towards the issue than they had polled positively for “Obamacare,” the tea party’s derisive nickname for the law, while Democrats polled more favorably towards passing the issue than they had ever polled negatively toward the act.http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2011/11/senate-bill-5-headed-for-resounding-defeat-tuesday.html#more

Unlike Wisconsin, where tens of thousands appeared to protest the law, Ohio’s SB5 provided no exemption for public-safety workers, which helped to galvanize public opinion against the law. Recent polling suggests Ohioans are opposed to SB5 59 percent to 36 percent, a margin of 23 points. The favorable weather has a positive effect on liberal candidates and issues, as urban areas are both more likely to vote left and have more obstacles to overcome when they try, such as lower vehicle ownership and long lines at the polls.

“We’ve had a steady stream, with a line first thing this morning,” said Richardson in Columbus.

In spite of the line, she estimated no voter had waited more than three to five minutes to vote.

“We’re moving them through pretty quickly,” she said.

Early and absentee voters, on the other hand, were less enticed this year than any election in the last five, as new directives from the Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, restricted county boards of elections from mailing out unsolicited applications for absentee ballots, and shut down early voting over the weekend. Both were part of the elections reforms former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner put in place as a result of the 2000 and 2004 elections debacles.

This year, poll workers indicated that while some voters had been confused by the new rules, they had been able to vote provisionally anyway.

“A couple people said they just got their absentee ballots yesterday, so they weren’t able to mail them in on time,” said Carr, a poll worker in the Victorian Village precinct, adding that they were, however, eventually able to cast absentee ballots successfully.

Update, 7:10 p.m. EST: In Columbus’s Milo-Grogan neighborhood, voters are still turning out in unexpectedly high numbers, even in spite of some confusion as to the location of the polling station.

Milo-Grogan, a largely blighted area on the city’s east side, saw an estimated 200 voters by 5 p.m., which the precinct’s presiding judge called “almost twice as many as last year’s election,” when John Kasich was elected governor.

“I think it’s from Issue 2,” said Alison Thornton in a confiding whisper. “It’s from the push. Firefighters and police and teachers — there was just a huge push for Issue 2.”

Thornton added that churches and other organizations had been busing voters to the polls all day.

Polls close at 7:30 p.m. in Ohio.

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