OUR VIEW: Your vote makes a difference

In Butler County, multiple school districts will have levies on the May voter ballot, including Ross Local Schools, which faces a takeover by the state. The 2,800-student school system has, in past years, consistently been the top academic performer, according to Ohio’s annual district report card. Ross has already seen $1.8 million in budget cuts in the last two years and faces another $600,000 or more in reductions going into next school year. It is in “financial crisis,” said the district’s top financial officer.

Under Ohio school law, districts must resolve significant projected budget deficits by seeking local voter approval for higher school taxes.

If more local tax revenue cannot be generated, the state will increasingly take control of a local district, removing its usual operating autonomy and ordering deeper budget cuts until the school system returns to solvency.

Ross’ looming shortfalls, combined with ballot tax levy defeats in August and November of last year, now has the district on the May 2 ballot with its largest proposed tax hike yet – a 9.4-mill property tax to fund the operating costs of its five schools.

Your vote gives you a say in these issues: how much your taxes go up and what level of services — the condition of your roads, the quality of your schools, the fire protection — that you want in your community.

Electing qualified leaders and ensuring a high level of services while also maintaining our area’s affordable cost of living is key to the long-term health of our communities. As we have reported in stories about the new Intel and Honda investments bringing jobs to Ohio, attracting and retaining a skilled workforce is an important regional priority. Protecting and improving the wellbeing of our existing residents while also meeting the expectations of those individuals and families relocating here can be decided in part by the votes you cast in local elections.

This election will also be the first in which new changes will take effect from a voter ID law passed by state legislators and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in January. The law requires voters to prove their identity with photo identification when casting a ballot in-person. The law also changes the timeline in which absentee voters can mail their ballots.

The law could create barriers to voting for those who are used to using other documents such as utility bills, bank statements, paychecks or other government-issued documents — such as county-issued veteran ID cards — that list a person’s name and address. Those people will need to obtain and bring an Ohio drivers license, state ID, military ID or passport to vote in person.

According to its sponsors, the voter ID law was intended to prevent voter fraud, which has not been documented to exist in Ohio at any meaningful rate. According to the Associated Press, the total possible nationwide voter fraud in the 2020 election was roughly 0.0005%.

We urge you to take your civic duty seriously, especially in an off-year election where a lack of national races can lead to lower voter turnout. Educate yourself on the issues at stake in your community, and be sure to read about the changes to Ohio voting law so you or someone you know won’t be surprised if you try to vote with documentation that is no longer accepted at polling locations.

You never know when the vote you cast could be the vote that determines the outcome of an election. Don’t give up that power this May.

New Voter ID Law Changes

- The deadline to register to vote in Ohio’s May 2 election is April 3, with early voting beginning on April 4.

- The law also requires the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to issue state ID cards to Ohioans 17 and older who request them at no charge.

- The timeline for early, in-person voting is changing. The Monday before election day, for example, was removed from the early voting calendar. Hours lost on that day were distributed throughout the week before it.

- The number of drop-off boxes for absentee ballots are limited to one per county.

- Absentee ballots must also now be requested a full week before Election Day, as opposed to the previous Saturday by noon.

- Curbside voting is now limited to Ohio voters who cannot physically enter their polling location.

Follow our election coverage at journalnews.com/election

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