Ohio’s ballot issues


On election day on Tuesday, there will be two constitutional amendments on Ohio’s ballot that voters will have to decide on. This business of voting on changes to the state constitution is inherently problematic because a constitution should be changed only after careful deliberation. Off-off-year elections, like this one, tend to produce very low turnout. Highest turnouts tend to be when a presidential election is on with around 70%, next highest is on other even years when Congressional elections are on where you see 40-50%, and odd-years are the worst, with rates dipping down to as low at 26% in 2013. So you can have a small fraction of the voting public deciding the fate of major issues that affect everyone.

So in general, I don’t like the idea. On the other hand, this is sometimes the only way that the public can get some issues passed despite the opposition of our totally reactionary state legislature.

This time we have to vote on Issue 1 and Issue 2 and the links take you to the Ballotpedia page that provides useful information on each, such as the actual text of the issue, plain language explanations of what the implications are, arguments for and against, lists of supporters and opponents, and the money being raised and spent for and against.

Issue 1 is supposedly designed to give the families of crime victims more opportunities to intervene in the process.

The measure is a type of Marsy’s Law. Issue 1 would provide crime victims with specific constitutional rights, including the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy; to be notified about and present at proceedings; to be heard at proceedings involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole of the accused; to a prompt conclusion of the case; to reasonable protection from the accused; to be notified about release or escape of the accused; to refuse an interview or disposition at the request of the accused; and to receive restitution from the individual who committed the criminal offense.

I will vote ‘No’ on Issue 1. It is not that I am unsympathetic to the victims and their families but the point of crimes being prosecuted by the state and not the victim is to not allow personal passions to intrude on the process. Having victims get more involved will tend to complicate things. The ACLU is one group that is opposed to this.

It is interesting that the side in favor of Issue 1 has raised and spent nearly $9 million while opponents have spent zero. Almost all that money has come from a single wealthy individual Henry Nicholas whose sister was the victim of a crime and now has undertaken as his mission to pass laws like this in every state in the country.

Issue 2 is meant to circumvent the efforts of Big Pharma and the medical industry that keep drug prices high, by enabling state agencies to bargain for lower prices.

Issue 2 would require the state and state agencies, including the Ohio Department of Medicaid, to pay the same or lower prices for prescriptions drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—a department that negotiates drug prices with companies and typically pays 24 percent less than other agencies for prescription drugs.[2] Specifically, it would forbid state agencies to enter into any purchasing agreement with drug manufacturers unless the net cost of the drug is the same or less than that paid by the VA.

I will vote ‘Yes’ on this. The pharmaceutical lobby has spent a huge amount, around $50 million almost entirely coming from Big Pharma, in trying to persuade people to vote no, more than three times that spent by those in favor. Almost all the money in favor comes from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Bernie Sanders and other local progressives are urging a vote in favor.

Comments

  1. says

    I am so sick and tired of people whining about people accused of crimes having rights. Those rights are there for a reason and are frequently trampled on. Just because someone is accused doesn’t mean they are guilty. If this was a fantasy land like those opposed to those right imagine, one where only the guilty are accused but they somehow get rights that let them trample all over victims, then sure, that sounds fine. But it’s not.

    That’s why the bit that really jumped out at me, “a prompt conclusion to the case”, is the most frightening. It means shutting down appeals, the only avenue for justice the wrongly convicted have. I know the average voter doesn’t like to think they live in a country where innocent people are thrown into prison, but they do. Appeals are a very real necessity and cutting back on them makes the police state even worse than it already is.

    Out of curiosity, does Ohio have the blight on justice systems that are elected prosecutors and/or judges?

    Finally, off topic, I’m always unsure how to address you, sir. Do you prefer Dr. Singham, Prof. Singham, or is Mano okay?

  2. Mano Singham says

    Tabby,

    Mano works just fine.

    The only time I use my professional titles is when writing letters of recommendation, in the hope that my words will carry a little more weight and thus help the candidate.

    Yes, we have elected judges and local prosecutors in Ohio, even for judges on the Supreme Court.

  3. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 Holms
    Care to elaborate?
    It’s a cynical and rather funny British-style joke. It is not to be taken literally.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy

    Can’t see anything wrong with that.

    to be notified about and present at proceedings

    I’d need convincing there should be exceptions to that.

    to be heard at proceedings involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole of the accused

    Absolutely not. Red line. No way.

    to a prompt conclusion of the case

    Justice delayed is justice denied. Seems reasonable. Doesn’t (to me) necessarily imply no appeals.

    to reasonable protection from the accused

    Can’t see anything wrong with that.

    ; to be notified about release or escape of the accused

    Seems reasonable, with certain possible exceptions.

    to refuse an interview or disposition at the request of the accused

    Nope. It’s a fundamental right that an accused person should be able to face and question their accuser. That right is already eroded in sexual assault cases, but that’s an exception, and any others should be justified on merit.

    to receive restitution from the individual who committed the criminal offense

    Is this even possible and is there evidence it helps?

    To me, this whole thing falls at that “to be heard at proceedings” clause, for precisely the reasons stated in the OP – the whole point of a trial in a court is that the process is dispassionate. A victim impact statement may be appropriate at trial, but not at sentencing and certainly not at parole. This sounds like an attempt at harsher, more retributively-focused justice.

  5. says

    Thanks for this. I’ve seen the awful “omg we will have no money for research and we will charge everyone else more” pharma ads on 2 some weeks ago. I had not not, though, heard of issue 1 before, and although there are a few obviously bad ideas in there, it’s good to know ahead of time.

    Also i had entirely forgotten about ballotpedia.

  6. says

    to receive restitution from the individual who committed the criminal offense

    Is this even possible and is there evidence it helps?

    It’ll help private prisons when someone who can’t afford to pay restitution is further incarcerated.

  7. lanir says

    For Issue #1, think of a very common case where someone accepts a plea bargain. What’s left? They don’t get a trial and the victim’s family has as much right to express their opinion in court as the prosecution and defense. So it’s 2 against 1. Also, the restitution deal sounds suspiciously like blurring the lines between a criminal case and a civil case. Aren’t those separate for a reason? If a full trial actually does happen, wouldn’t there be a real risk that people would choose a guilty verdict over not guilty simply to make sure a victim gets restitution they are perceived to need?

    Together with all the other previously stated objections to this I can only wonder what sort of cynical panderer or mildly cunning imbecile would even bring this sort of thing to a vote. I think I disagree on some point or other with almost everyone who commented on this but it’s still trivial for all of us to poke holes in it and agree it’s rubbish.

  8. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Many people here say that government persons are better at being the criminal prosecutor compared to the victim.

    Bullshit.

    Government criminal prosecutors are about as corrupt as you can possibly be, moreso than even politicians and legislative reps, and government prosecutors are biased as fuck for conviction no matter the innocence of the accused, and no matter the wishes of the purported victim, etc. The notion that government prosecutors are “more fair” or “more neutral” or “more professional / ethical” compared to a victim-as-prosecutor is a huge lie which IMAO is the foundation of many, perhaps most, of the wrongness of the US American criminal justice system. (For my purposes here, I am excluding the police power used outside of the immediate context of the court and trial.)

    The victim is often the person most suited to be the criminal prosecutor, or to choose the criminal prosecutor. At the very least, the victim should have the constitutional right to have the first opportunity to choose the criminal prosecutor, which may be themself or another person.

    The English and American legal system is historically predicated upon the assumption that justice arises as a contest of two equals in a court of law, who are both biased as fuck in their own favor, adjudicated by a neutral third party, i.e. the government judge.

    What’s that you say? You didn’t know that circa 200 years ago, in the US and England, practically all criminal prosecutors were the victims or the personal attorneys of the victims? It’s true.

    PS:
    I’m not suggesting that we do away with government prosecutors. Oftentimes, the victims are too poor or otherwise too busy to prosecute the case. I suggest that if the victim forgoes their inalienable right to be or appoint the prosecutor, then that ability defaults to the government, and if the government declines, then the ability becomes available to any person with no regard to standing. In this system, the grand jury would resume its original historical role of providing the necessary oversight on prosecutors.

  9. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Sorry, missed a necessary part of the rant:
    To continue from:

    The English and American legal system is historically predicated upon the assumption that justice arises as a contest of two equals in a court of law, who are both biased as fuck in their own favor, adjudicated by a neutral third party, i.e. the government judge.

    Instead, today, we have a massive, massive power difference in basically all criminal cases, because basically all criminal cases put the vast, vast resources of the government against the defendant. The right to have a government attorney for criminal defense is a fig leaf, a token, to counteract this problem, but we all know that government defense attorneys are basically jokes because of how little resources they get compared to the government prosecutor attorneys. From this kind of system, where the prosecution is biased as fuck, and has such a massive difference in power, justice does not result.

    What do I mean by a massive difference in power? Many. I cannot list all of the ways offhand, but here are some examples.

    Government prosecutors get government crime labs, and a practical monopoly on the ability to gather and analyze evidence at the crime scene. In almost all cases, the defendant does not have the means nor the opportunity to get the evidence to a lab of their own choice, and government crime labs are notorious corrupt and incompetent.

    Government prosecutors, as a matter of routine practice, will overcharge the defendant with charges that they know are excessive, beyond the facts, and unlikely to stick at trial, in order to scare / extort the defendant into a plea bargain. It was the historical role for grand juries to prevent this sort of behavior, but grand juries are overworked, and we as a society have allowed grand juries to become overworked because we trust government prosecutors. If instead victims-as-prosecutors become commonplace, then we as a society would empower grand juries to resume their historical role as a significant safeguard against prosecutorial abuse.

    Prosecutors also have too much power and authority to offer immunities and plea baragains, and seek warrants, injunctions, and other court orders, with almost no practical oversight from grand juries or judges. They are almost the law unto themself, e.g. like a king.

    Another facet of the problem of the current system is that the only recourse for prosecutor abuse is for another government prosecutor to press criminal charges. Several university professors have looked for such cases, and they have found only two such cases that have gone to trial. One ended in a “not guilty” verdict, and the other ended in a “guilty” verdict but with 1 day of jail time. This is ample evidence that prosecutors are above the law. Prosecutors are held personally responsible less often than judges, and even presidents! More US presidents have been impeached (or were about to be impeached, aka 3) than US government prosecutors who have gone to trial!

    In a proper system, the government would offer some funds to both the victim-as-prosecutor and the defendant, such as in the form of appointed attorneys, crime labs, etc., but the system would be set up such that both sides received roughly equal funding.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *