For Lorain County Community College, it means being Issue No. 2 on the November ballot instead of Issue
The first position will go instead to Lorain County’s proposed 0.5 percent sales tax hike when the numbers are officially assigned today by the county Board of Elections.
The reason the sales tax increase trumps the college’s renewal levy comes down to state law requiring issues to be placed on the ballot in alphabetical order, elections board Director Paul Adams said.
Although the first 12 letters of the two entities are the same, it’s the 13th letter, the “C” in Community, that pushes the college down to the second spot.
County Commissioner Ted Kalo said being Issue 1 is good for the county, which has seen three previous sales tax increases shot down by voters in recent years.
“It’s always good to be at the top of the food chain,” Kalo said.
Traditionally, those seeking to pass levies tend to think that the lower the issue number the better it is for their campaign, not only from a marketing perspective, but also because voters don’t always make it to the end of the ballot.
Another concern is that the farther down the ballot a voter goes, the more likely he is to vote against a tax increase, particularly if there are a lot of tax issues to consider.
Tracy Green, LCCC’s vice president of strategic and institutional development, said the college isn’t upset ending up with the No. 2 spot on the ballot. It’s been worse in the past, she said.
“We knew that was going to happen,” Green said. “There’s some things you can control and some you can’t.”
Adams said that issues, which appear after candidates on the ballot, are actually split into five groups that are then organized alphabetically. State issues, which won’t be on the ballot in November, always go first.
Following the state issues are the other four groups — county, municipal, township and “schools and other” issues, which rotate position.
That’s why, Green said, LCCC has had issue numbers as high as 59 in the past.
She said the key isn’t ballot position, but getting the college’s message out about the necessity of replacing its expiring 10-year University Partnership 1.5-mill levy, which brings in $9 million annually. If passed, the renewal levy will add an additional 0.6 mills and bring in an extra $3 million per year.
The campaign supporting the levy will likely spend $200,000 or more on an advertising and information blitz to convince voters to pass Issue 2, Green said.
Stephen Brooks, associate director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said that message, more than poll position, is what counts when it comes to passing ballot issues.
“I sense that if both of these issues end up doing an informational campaign, (issue numbers) probably will not make much of a difference at all,” Brooks said.
Although political science research tends to focus on candidates rather than issues, Brooks said there is some evidence that placement of an issue on the ballot does make a small difference in how many voters actually cast a ballot one way or the other on an issue.
In election years that are heavy with candidates and issues, voters sometimes suffer from “ballot fatigue” the farther down the ballot they get, leading to them to skip some down ticket issues and races, Brooks said.
He also said that skipping races sometimes means voters just aren’t familiar enough with the races or issues to feel comfortable casting a ballot. Judicial contests often suffer from that problem, Brooks said.
Kalo said the county is putting together a committee to raise money and actively campaign for passage of the sales tax, something that hasn’t always happened in previous sales tax increase efforts.
The commissioners contend the increase is necessary to counter a projected budget deficit of $6 million in 2014 and to deal with capital improvements.
The commissioners are banking on voters understanding that passing the temporary sales tax hike will mean a reduction in property taxes for the three years the sales tax increase is in effect. That means there needs to be a concerted effort to make sure voters have that information, Kalo said.