Regardless of how you feel about the Tea Party and their ballot initiatives in Ohio, you have to give them credit for persistence and, at least last year, their success.

I wrote extensively about last year’s “Healthcare Freedom” amendment (aka Issue 3) – the anti-“Obamacare” amendment that Chris Littleton and the Ohio Liberty Council not only got on the ballot, but succeeded in passing. I honestly never thought they’d get enough signatures to get it on the ballot. And when they did, I never thought they’d get the votes to get it passed. I was wrong in both cases.

I know I’m not the only one who underestimated their strategy and their ability to gather funding for the effort. For over a year the organization relied on a dedicated group of true-believers gathering signatures at festivals and fairs and anywhere large groups of Ohioans gathered. The pace was consistent, but relatively slow. And early in the year, there was no reason to believe they would get enough signatures to get on the 2011 ballot.

When they suddenly got some help from Republicans intent on boosting voter turnout for their own pet-issue (Issue 2/SB5), things changed quickly, catching many people off guard.

It’s no secret that supporters of the Affordable Care Act were late to respond to last year’s ballot initiative. And while their messaging was good, there was not nearly enough of it to change voters’ minds. Hopefully we won’t make the same mistake this time around.

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom and their partners announced plans to put a “Right to Work” amendment, aka the “Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment”, on the ballot right after the November 2011 elections.

We Are Ohio recently announced they would be gearing up for the fight against the initiative. While I’m sure there’s lots going on behind the scenes, we haven’t really heard much from either side of the fight.

Yesterday, however, a reader sent us a link to an ad for signature gatherers. According to the ad, signature gatherers in South West Ohio would be paid $1.50 per signature and would be working to “place the Ohio’s Workplace Freedom Amendment on the ballot for voters to approve”

I spoke with Chris Littleton, spokesman for Ohioans for Workplace Freedom, yesterday and he confirmed they are hiring signature gathers. In fact, they’ve had paid gatherers working for weeks now. According to Littleton, “signature gatherers were hired going into the primary election to start efforts with a boost”.

The important take away here is not that they are collecting signatures, but that they are hiring people to do it. According to Littleton, the money is from “few private donors and a couple organizations”. While it’s unclear exactly how much money has been committed to the effort, the fact that they have funds available to hire signature gatherers should serve as a wake up call to those opposed to this amendment.

We Are Ohio recently announced it would be using part of the $700,000 it still has left from the SB5 fight on educating voters about the “right to work” initiative. Based on their overwhelming success last year, this certainly is good news for those intent on stopping this anti-union initiative.

Those who oppose the “Right to work” amendment should also be happy that Ohio’s Republicans are unlikely thrilled about having this on the ballot in 2012. As they try to hold on their seats and majorities, they are also trying to distance themselves from their decisive defeat over SB5, which means we probably won’t see funding from the ORP flowing into this ballot initiative. But there are still plenty of local, state and national anti-union groups that could likely be convinced to help fund the effort.

Unlike last time, I’m going to give these guys some credit and assume they will, eventually, get their amendment in front of voters. So the real question then becomes one of timing.

Littleton, when asked about the target ballot date, repeated what other members of the effort have said: they’d like to get this on the 2012 ballot, but 2013 looks more likely. And while I do seem to think he’s right about 2013 being more reasonable, I can’t help but remember: that’s what I thought last time.

 

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