When it comes to presidential elections, Ohio, a perennial swing state, yields enormous influence. In 2004, Ohio gave George W. Bush his second term as president; in 2008, 51 percent of Ohio voters -- to John McCain's 47 percent -- awarded the state's 20 electoral votes to Barack Obama. As it has in the past, Ohio is likely to play a major role in the 2012 presidential election. Here are five key issues to watch, by the numbers.
647,000: In 2011, the most recent year with available data, Ohio had 647,000 members of labor unions, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Though it sounds like a lot, it represents just 13.4 percent of Ohio's wage earners, a number that's been decreasing since the all-time high of 21.3 percent in 1989. One of the initiatives voters may consider, if it gains the signatures needed for placement on the November ballot, is a "Right-to-Work" amendment to Ohio's Constitution, called the "Ohio Labor Union Dues Amendment." It would provide that workers covered by labor contracts would not be required to join unions. Some argue it is a new way to bust unions; without dues, the unions cannot operate.
385,000: To get the initiative to repeal Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage -- one of November's possible initiatives -- on the ballot, supporters will need to garner 385,000 signatures. Whether these election-year initiatives actually increase turnout and mobilize voters is up for debate. While the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive organization, found turnout impacted by initiatives, conservatives say that such initiatives weren't the tipping point for Bush in 2004.
11: For the last 11 presidential elections, Ohio has given its electoral votes to the winner. The streak started after the Richard Nixon/John F. Kennedy election of 1960, when Ohio voted for Nixon, who, of course, lost to Kennedy. They may have been wrong in 1960, but they weren't wrong about Nixon, who was elected president in a squeaker of a race over Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Interestingly, the third-party candidate in1968 was segregationist and former governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who got 8.6 percent of the national vote.
10: Ohio could have up to 10 initiatives on the November ballot, including two already slated. One seeks to repeal an election reform law that changed the state's primary dates and the voting periods for absentee and early voting; and the other calls for a state constitutional convention. The eight possible ballot initiatives all depend on whether supporters can garner enough signatures by the July 4, 2012 deadline, and cover a diverse range of issues, from abortion and "personhood" to medical marijuana to redistricting to the environment.
2: Number of electoral votes Ohio lost after the 2010 census. Instead of a robust 20, Ohio will have but 18 electoral votes to give in 2012. Blue-in-2008 New York lost two as well, and Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania each are down one electoral vote. Red-in-2008 Missouri and Louisiana also each lost one. The biggest winner was bright-red Texas, with a gain of four, along with fellow red states Arizona, Georgia, Utah, and South Carolina each gaining one. 2008 blue states Washington and Nevada each took an additional electoral vote, while Florida gained two.
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- electoral votes