A criminal justice reform question on the Ohio statewide ballot has support from nearly 48 percent of likely voters while 30.5 percent oppose it and 21.7 percent aren’t sure how they’ll vote on the matter, according to a new poll released Tuesday by Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute.
State Issue 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would convert low-level felony drug possession and drug use crimes into misdemeanors with no jail time for the first two offenses.
It also calls for granting early release for state prison inmates who complete rehabilitation and education programs — except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation.
Money saved on prison costs would be spent on drug treatment, crime victim and rehabilitation programs.
Ohio spends $1.8 billion a year to incarcerate almost 50,000 people in state prisons. Policy Matters Ohio, which supports Issue 1, said the ballot issue would reduce Ohio’s prison population by 10,000 and redirect $136 million into treatment and other programs.
In political TV ads and in each of the three gubernatorial debates, Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray have clashed over state Issue 1. DeWine calls it a disaster that will make Ohio a safe haven for drug dealers. Cordray supports it as a plan to address criminal justice reform and drug addiction.
“It will cause more fentanyl to come into the state of Ohio. In Ohio, it will become, for under 20 grams, it will be a misdemeanor with no jail time at all,” DeWine said in Monday’s debate. “Where do you think the drug dealers are going to come, Richard?”
Cordray responded: “Drug cartels have flooded the state with fentanyl — on your watch. Fentanyl deaths went from 70 a year to 3,431 last year. Drug dealers have had a playground in Ohio while you’ve been asleep at the switch. You’ve been the fentanyl failure for all Ohio.”
Cordray also said he supports changing Ohio’s bail system from cash to a individual risk assessment. Bail has two purposes: make sure the accused shows up for court and to protect the public.
The Baldwin Wallace poll, which was conducted Sept. 28 to Oct. 8, shows DeWine has 39.7 percent, Cordray 37.1 percent, Libertarian Travis Irvine has 4.3 percent, Ohio Green Party candidate Constance Gadell-Newton has 3.4 percent and 15.4 percent of voters are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
Opponents of Issue 1: DeWine, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Dayton Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Ohio Judicial Conference, Auditor Dave Yost and former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, state Reps. Keith Faber and Robert Sprague, Senate President Larry Obhof and Ohio House Speaker Ryan Smith, Ohio State Bar Association, Buckeye Sheriff’s Association and others.
Supporters of Issue 1: Cordray, ACLU of Ohio, Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio Baptist State Convention, Ohio Education Association, musician and Springfield native John Legend, Ohio treasurer candidate Rob Richardson and the Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy.