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School Levies, New County Jail On The Ballot In Greene County

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Ohio’s almost entirely mail-in-primary election is coming up on Tuesday, April 28th. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by April 27th. You can also return your absentee ballot in-person to your board of elections before 7:30 on election day. In-person voting for Ohioans with disabilities and those without a home mailing address will still take place on April 28th.

WYSO’s Leila Goldstein spoke with Dr. Lee Hannah, Associate Professor of political science at Wright State University, about the impact of the coronavirus on this election and some of the issues on the ballot in Greene County.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.  

Leila Goldstein: The big news is that Ohio is now having an almost all mail-in election due to the coronavirus. How will that affect some of the local elections and voter turnout in the region? 

Lee Hannah: More than anything else, it just brings an entirely new level of uncertainty. I don't think we fully understand yet if there's a disproportionate type of voter that is following through on the mail-in request versus one that is not. And then, of course, we have uncertainties about the current conditions on the ground and how that may affect the way voters think about this election. 

Historically, in times of economic crisis, either on the personal or the macro level, people become more pessimistic about the economy and less likely to take on any new expenses that they can control.

The one benefit of absentee balloting is that you can actually do a little more research. I think there are times where election day comes, you just run over. You've been following the presidential race. You've been following a primary or two. But often you might find yourself surprised by something on the second or third page of the ballot and not really know what to do. And now you can Google it. So, there may be at least some opportunities to be more informed on the fly during this election. How that falls with actual vote choices is impossible to know. 

Goldstein: Looking specifically to Greene County, there are several school levies on the ballot. Voters in the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District will decide on a 5.7 mills levy to pay for everyday school expenses. Voters rejected a levy last year. What's at stake for the school system and the taxes of residents? 

Hannah: The school system has tried to make it very clear in terms of what the costs are, what types of programs would be cut if they don't get this levy passed, and what types of personnel might be cut. As far as the cost of the levy, I believe the millage works out to about $200 for $100,000 valuation on a home. That's what voters are looking at. 

Of course, we have the same concerns in terms of individuals who now feel increased economic insecurity and the last thing they want to do is agree to part with any more of their resources. 

Also, we now have teachers coming to the parents’ homes, through Zoom and course materials and everything else. But this might be a moment where people realize the importance and the significance and the value of good teachers and good education. Perhaps that could lead to a bit of a rally, but it's really hard to know. 

Goldstein: Residents of Greene County will also be voting on a proposed sales tax increase to pay for a new county jail. How did the county land on the cost of the facility and what are opponents saying? 

Hannah: Under Ohio law, the way that you finance prisons and jails is through sales taxes rather than property taxes. Now, the argument for the jail and for building it is that there's much evidence from the sheriff's office that the jail itself is really falling apart. 

The opponents have come out with a message of build better, not bigger. That's kind of been their catch phrase. They argue that they have not considered mental health services, drug treatment, probation. They're pushing hard against this and saying that, we may very well need a jail, but not this one, not the one they've put before us. This may be an effort by the sheriff's office, much like Bellbrook, maybe you put your first offer out there, you see how it plays, and then perhaps they come back in 2021 with either a less expensive proposal or one that considers some of these programs that the opponents want to see prioritized. 

You can find more information on voting in this election at the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly stated the units for the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District levy as $5.7 million. It is in fact for 5.7 mills.

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.