A conversation with…Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau
OCJ: Why is Ohio such an important battleground for the presidential candidates in an election year?
Adam: It has long been believed that “as goes Ohio, so goes the nation,” which is evident by the amount of time that the candidates for President and Vice President, as well as important campaign figureheads, have spent in our state. Ohio is a populous Midwestern state that has a number of electoral votes up for grabs. We also have a good track record on picking Presidential candidates; since 1896 we’ve only picked the losing candidate twice (1944 and 1960). As an aside, we are second only to Nevada in picking presidents correctly. Why this is the case is something that political pundits and professors have dozens of theories about.
OCJ: Could you provide a brief outline of State Issue 1 that will be on the ballot this fall?
Adam: State Issue 1 asks Ohioans if they would like to hold a Constitutional Convention to revise, alter, or amend the Ohio Constitution. Beginning in 1932, this question has been asked of voters every twenty years automatically as required by Article 16, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution. Voters have never approved this ballot question. If, however, they were to say, “Yes” this year, the General Assembly would be required to call a constitutional convention. Any proposed amendments or revisions from a constitutional convention must be approved by a vote of the people at the next general election.
OCJ: Could you provide a brief outline of Issue 2?
Adam: State Issue 2 proposes to alter how Ohio draws legislative and congressional lines. In the current system, the Apportionment Board, which consists of the Secretary of State, the Auditor, the Governor, and one Republican and one Democrat legislator, draws the lines for the state house and senate seats. The General Assembly passes legislation that draws the lines for the congressional seats. In the proposed new system, a state-funded commission consisting of 12 individuals will draw the lines for both the state and congressional seats. To identify that panel, all Ohioans (excepting those that the amendment prohibits from participating) can apply to be on the commission. From all applicants who apply, a panel of Appeals Court Judges will select 42 who they deem qualified. From that 42, up to 18 may be eliminated by the Speaker of the House and Minority Leader of the House. This will result in a pool of 24-42 applicants. Nine (three republicans, three democrats, and three independents) of the 12 individuals are picked by lot from that pool of 24-42 applicants. Those nine will then select the final three members of the commission from the remaining pool of 15-33 applicants. The Commission, once selected, will receive funding from the General Assembly in the amount that the Commission determines necessary. The Constitutional Amendment would set requirements both as timelines for the adoption of districts and the requirements (such as competitiveness, compactness, etc) for those districts. If adopted, the Commission would adopt new maps prior to the 2014 election and then again following every 10-year U.S. Census.
For the complete text of State Issues 1 and 2 as well as arguments prepared for and against the issues, readers can review the Ohio Ballot Issues Book at: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/upload/ballotboard/2012/2012stateissues.pdf.
OCJ: Is this something OFBF is concerned about?
Adam: The Ohio Farm Bureau has expressed its concerns with State Issue 2 and is recommending a No vote on State Issue 2. In Issue 2, the proposed language includes a confusing and complicated application and selection procedure that lacks accountability to voters. While Ohio Farm Bureau believes that a better and more transparent redistricting and apportionment process is needed, Farm Bureau feels strongly that Issue 2 does not meet the standards of good government. It is our option that Ohioans deserve good government that is accountable to the public, subject to fiscal and ethical oversight and ensures that rural Ohio continues to have adequate legislative representation. Issue 2 does not meet these criteria.
OCJ: Ohioans will be voting on state Supreme Court Candidates this fall as well. Has Farm Bureau taken a position in these races?
Adam: Ohio Farm Bureau has selected two candidates as Friends of Agriculture in races for the Ohio Supreme Court: Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell. Both candidates have extensive experience in private law practices, as Judges and as current Justices on the Ohio Supreme Court. As important issues such as eminent domain powers and township zoning authority have come before the Supreme Court, Justice Cupp and Justice O’Donnell have ruled in agreement with Farm Bureau’s position of protecting private property rights. Farm Bureau supports these candidates and their judicial philosophies.
OCJ: Why is it more important than ever for Ohio’s farm community to get out and vote in this election?
Adam: More than ever before, decisions being made on farms across Ohio are affected by federal, state and local public policy. There are many important agricultural and rural issues that are pending before Congress and the Legislature including the 2012 Farm Bill, federal estate tax exemption limits, U.S. EPA authority over waterways, nutrient management, tax policy and state budgeting. It is important that farmers not only ask candidates where they are on these critical issues but that they then take every opportunity to educate all candidates on these policy matters. With such high levels of turnover in office, farmers must be diligent in getting their message out about the impacts these issues will have on the day-to-day operation of their farms and what policies they need for economic growth and continued production of a safe and abundant food supply.