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League of Women Voters readies for voting season

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Representatives from the League of Women Voters of Athens County held an open forum Tuesday to discuss the organization’s standing on this year’s issues for the November ballot.

According to their mission statement, the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization focused on registering people to vote and informing voters about candidates and issues while promoting a sense of community. Tuesday’s focus was Issues 1, 2 and 3: congressional redistricting, corporate monopolies and marijuana legalization, respectively.

Guest speaker Ann Henkener spoke on the issues, leaving time for Athens residents to ask any questions they had at the end of the discussion.

The issues facing voters next month will have an important impact on Athens County, especially Issue 1, which has to do with congressional redistricting regulations.

Redistricting reform will affect electoral district boundaries that will be redrawn in 2021. As of now, the districts are determined by a group made up of state politicians including the governor, the secretary of state and the state auditor, along with one Republican representative and one Democratic representative.

The League of Women Voters has announced it’s support of Issue 1. According to Henkener, Issue 1 will “give us a legislature much more representative of voters,” and would help to draw more equal districts.

“This has the potential to put things back in balance,” she said.

Approving Issue 1 will establish more of a bipartisan commission that will include a second representative from each party, along with ensuring that communities are not torn apart by redistricting, Henkener said. She also believes the process of drawing partisan lines will become more transparent to the public before a final map is made.

Henkener went on to announce the organization’s support for the issue.

With the approval of Issue 1, districts would be able to better reflect the party affiliations of Ohioans, resulting in communities seeing a more 50/50 representation of both parties in each district.

Henkener is confident that this issue will be voted in claiming approval from both Democrats and Republicans.

“Both parties and voters at least like some of this issue,” Henkener said. “We should be able to move forward.”

Another focus was the organization’s stance on marijuana legalization. Issue 3 would authorize the sale of marijuana from 10 distributors and 1,100 retail stores. It would also give individuals the right to grow up to four plants for personal use.

Concerns that Issue 3 could create a monopoly has made the issue a hot topic, resulting in a joint resolution from state legislatures better known as Issue 2.

Issue 2 would help eliminate monopolies by getting rid of specialized taxes and licenses that prevent people from taking part in the industry. Trade restrictions along with the monopoly would form a market that creates constraints to the point where no one else can partake in profiting off of marijuana.

If Issue 2 fails, individuals would have to ask themselves if they are willing to override the current position of antimonopoly. If voters approve Issue 2, arrangements such as Issue 3 would have the potential to become illegal in an attempt to prevent monopolies. The League of Women Voters formally supports Issue 2 but not Issue 3.

“We are for a yes vote on (Issue 2).” Henkener said. “You’re keeping out a lot of things that shouldn’t be in the (Ohio state) constitution. We’re putting things that should be statutes in the constitution.”

Because of its support of Issue 2, the League of Women Voters decided to oppose Issue 3. This doesn’t come down to marijuana, however.

“We’ve looked at it,” Henkerer said. “There are a lot of pros and cons, especially about medical marijuana.”

Members of the crowd agreed with the organization’s stance. One citizen voiced his support for the legalization of marijuana but not Issue 3.

“I have worked on this issue for 30 years,” the citizen said. “I am sour with myself because I have to vote no on Issue 3.”

With Issue 2 on the ballot, Issue 3 could be in jeopardy; there is still a chance that both could be voted in. Both seem to contradict each other, but the issue will be out of voters hands.

“There’s a virtual 100 percent certainty it will go to the (Supreme) Court,” Heneker told the audience, reminding the crowd that the League of Women Voters has no official stance on marijuana at this point.

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