H.B. 140 Changes Property Tax Ballot Language…after November 8th Elections

Brian Massie, Citizen Journalist

We received a question from a Lake County citizen regarding the appropriateness of bold, and extra-large size font used to inform taxpayers about a property tax levy on the ballot. It was his opinion that the extra-large and bold font could sway a voter’s decision to pass the property tax levy.

We agreed with the citizen and contacted Mr. Ross McDonald, Director of the Lake County Board of Elections. Prior to the election, Mr. McDonald gave us a quick, correct reply since he was inundated with items for the upcoming elections. We thank him for his transparency and his quick responses to our questions.

Here is the page from the Willoughby-Eastlake City School District tax levy that was on the November 8th ballot. Notice the bold face, enlarged font was allowed for the last time.

Detailed reply from Mr. McDonald after the election:

Thank you for your patience as we wrapped up the election last night. Concerning the ballot format for the Willoughby-Eastlake City School District renewal levy, the Ohio Revised Code Section that controls for this type of levy is RC 5705.197. For this election, Boards of Elections operated under the version of this code section enacted on August 16, 1999, which you may read at this link: 

https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-5705.197/8-16-1999.

Notably, you will see in the code it states:

“The purpose for which the tax is to be levied shall be printed in the space indicated, in boldface type of at least twice the size of the type immediately surrounding it.”

On September 13, 2022, the 134th General Assembly amended this section (House Bill 140) to remove the boldface and double the point size requirement. Due to the timing of the amendment, occurring 10 days prior to military and overseas citizens absentee ballots being issued for this General Election, Boards of Elections received Advisory 2022-04 from the Ohio Secretary of State indicating that we are to operate under the old formatting (August 16, 1999 version). From the advisory:

“More specifically, H.B. 140 changes the required language to describe levy rate information in election notices and ballot language for property tax questions. Additionally, H.B. 140 restricts the use of boldface or differing font sizes in the text of ballot questions. This bill takes effect September 13, 2022 but does not apply to elections held before December 22, 2022.”

As such, the November 8, 2022 General Election was the last election where emergency levies will be formatted in this manner.

I’ve attached Advisory 2022-04 to this email for your review. I’ve also attached a ballot copy from the November 6, 2012 General Election showing how we formatted the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools renewal levy (Issue 6) when it was last voted upon (see page 4 of PDF). Finally, here is a link to current version of RC 5705.197: https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-5705.197

Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Sincerely,

Ross McDonald
Director of the Lake County Board of Elections

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Here is the Secretary of State’s advisory 2022-04 dated September 12, 2022

Notice that although House Bill 140 takes effect on September 13, 2022, it does not apply to elections held before December 22, 2022.

The State legislators agreed with our Lake County lobbyist and eliminated the use of boldface or differing font sizes in the text of ballot questions.

Please read the entire three pages because you will see that the legislators did try to make the ballot language of the property tax issues easier for the voter to understand.

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Categories: Lake, Lake County - General, Real Estate Taxes

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