Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have put
thousands of drug offenders into treatment programs instead of prison.

The drug-treatment amendment known as Issue 1 was being defeated by a
2-to-1 ratio with nearly all state precincts reporting results.

The lopsided results mirrored recent polls that found voters turned off by
the plan's $247 million, seven-year cost.

Issue 1 supporters argued their plan would save taxpayers a net $108
million in reduced prison and jail expenses. But most voters never heard
that, seeing instead the $247 million highlighted in every ballot summary.

A proposed constitutional amendment, Issue 1 would have given thousands of
nonviolent drug offenders the ability to choose treatment instead of
prison. Similar initiatives passed in Arizona and California.

Gov. Bob Taft and his wife, Hope, held a news conference in Columbus to
declare victory early in the evening. Mrs. Taft led a coalition of
politicians, judges, prosecutors, police and drug-treatment officials in a
statewide opposition campaign.

"We sent a message to a few people who thought they could buy Ohio with
their money," Mrs. Taft said. "We're here to tell them Ohio is not for
sale."

It was the first defeat for a trio of businessmen who had bankrolled
similar drug-treatment initiatives in Arizona and California. George
Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling, three billionaires who believe the
nation's war on drugs does more harm than good, spent roughly $1 million
on a petition drive to put Issue 1 on the ballot.

Issue 1 supporters acknowleged defeat.

"They've won a small skirmish in a much larger battle that doesn't end
tonight," said Ed Orlett, the Issue 1 campaign manager. "This time, they
were able to confuse the issue."

Mr. Orlett practically guaranteed that the drug treatment amendment would
return for the 2004 campaign.

Issue 1 opponents waged a campaign that included claims that the amendment
would have taken vital decisions concerning treatment and jail time out of
judges' hands.

They also argued that the plan was no more than a first step toward
decriminalizing drugs.

Some polls showed a majority of voters supported the concept of putting
drug offenders into treatment, but not at the pricetag.

Author: Spencer Hunt, Enquirer Columbus Bureau
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Contact: letters@enquirer.com
Website: http://enquirer.com/today/
Pubdate: Wednesday, November 6, 2002