Sunday, March 19, 2000

CAPITOL INSIDER


Bill would let voters cross over freely in primaries

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some Democrats who wanted to cross over and vote for Arizona Sen. John McCain in Ohio's Republican presidential primary this month may have faced a quandary.

        State law allows poll judges to make voters sign an oath swearing allegiance to a party before getting a primary ballot. State election officials haven't tallied how many oaths were signed March 7, but they had expected Mr. McCain's maverick candidacy to attract more crossover votes.

        This little-known provision in state law may soon be headed for the paper shredder, though. Legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Trakas, R-Independence, would abolish the oath and allow voters to freely pick the ballot of their choice.

        “Ohioans should not have to take loyalty oaths to affirm their allegiance to one political party or the other,” said Mr. Trakas, chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party.

        His bill is backed by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Cincinnati Republican who is the state's chief elections official.

        Before Mr. McCain's reform-minded candidacy ended, he got a big boost from Democrats and independents in Michigan and New Hampshire, states that allow voters to cross party lines in primaries.

        Mr. Trakas' bill would add party preference to the form used when voters register and allow citizens to indicate their party any time during the year, before or after primary elections.

* * *
        Democrats don't get much of a chance to pass bills in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. So they often have to rely on unusual ideas to attract attention.

        We're biting on one this week from state Rep. Bryan Flannery of suburban Cleveland.

        In a nod to his Irish heritage, Mr. Flannery is pushing a bill that would add the Irish potato famine (1845-50) to the state's model curriculum. Teachers wouldn't be required to talk about the famine, but the bill would require the state Department of Education to prepare educational materials about it.

        “It is an historically significant event not just for Irish or Irish-Americans, but for anyone concerned with human rights and social justice,” Mr. Flannery said.

        He wanted to introduce his bill Friday, St. Patrick's Day, but the General Assembly wasn't in session that day.

        Earlier this year, Mr. Flannery offered a $1,000 “reward” for anybody who came up with a better way to reform the way Ohio pays for public education. We're still waiting for the results from that one.

* * *
        State Sen. Mark Mallory is adding his name to the list of folks urging President Clinton to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.

        The Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth is the pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church in North Avondale and a 40-year veteran of the civil rights movement. Cincinnati City Council unanimously approved a resolution two years ago calling on Mr. Clinton to award the medal.

        “I strongly encourage you to continue to recognize those who have fought for, and continue to fight for the basic freedoms and social balance that make this nation great,” Mr. Mallory, a Cincinnati Democrat, wrote in a letter to Mr. Clinton.

        Michael Hawthorne covers state government for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at (614) 224-4640.

       



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