- - Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Nov. 8, residents of the nation’s most important swing state of Ohio will vote on whether they wish to move forward in challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate to buy insurance under the health care bill that President Obama signed into law two years ago. Thus, Ohioans will cast an early vote on Mr. Obama himself.

The proposed “Healthcare Freedom Amendment” to the state constitution is on the ballot as a result of one of the largest volunteer signature-gathering efforts in American history.

The amendment, known as Ohio Issue 3, seeks “to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.” It constitutes a particularly important piece of evidence as cases questioning the constitutionality of the mandate move toward a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Because the amendment to Ohio’s Bill of Rights was initiated by and will be voted on by its residents, passage will provide unique standing for Ohioans to have the Supreme Court hear the case on the basis of infringement of their rights as defined in both the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.

But even more important than preventing Ohio from a compulsory-based health care system such as Romneycare in Massachusetts, and more important than moving a case on infringement of people’s rights to the Supreme Court, this vote will define the intensity of opposition to both Mr. Obama and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown ahead of the 2012 election, when both will be on the ballot.

This single vote can significantly alter the dynamics of the 2012 campaign because Mr. Obama and Mr. Brown will be forced to defend this most emotional of issues with Ohio voters - an issue toward which Americans have shown strong opposition in almost every poll. In fact, opposition to the mandate has increased in many polls gauging attitudes toward Mr. Obama’s health care act passed last year.

If Mr. Obama is forced to run a 2012 campaign on issues about a failing economy coupled with a narrative of government infringement on freedom of choice in health care - the most personal of all decisions for most people - he will be in real trouble. He can’t afford to lose this challenge to his agenda, and, at this moment, that appears to be likely.

Public Policy Polling summarized the results of its recent poll this way: “By a 55-24 margin, voters say if the election was today that they would support Issue 3, which is basically meant to counteract Barack Obama’s health care plan. Republicans unsurprisingly support it by a 70-12 margin and so do independents, 58-21. More striking is that Democrats say right now that they’d vote for it 41-35.”

Of particular interest, 37 percent of the poll’s respondents supporting the amendment had voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, and 40 percent supporting the amendment identify themselves as very liberal.

Freedom of choice in health care decisions has united liberals and conservatives in opposition to Mr. Obama.

Is anyone shocked that Americans believe that government involvement in their health care decisions is bad? Is anyone surprised that people choose freedom over compulsion as a way of life? Is anyone shocked that people believe government should have no power to make them purchase a commercial product just because they are alive?

This horrible infringement on personal freedom is something on which almost all Americans agree. Mr. Obama finally has accomplished what he set out to achieve: a post-partisan, post-racial America united in common cause. But, in this case, that common cause has become opposition to him and his policies.

Surprising no one, Ohio has become the center of political attention for the nation, and with this vote on Issue 3, Ohioans may be firing the newest shot heard ‘round the world.

• Chris Littleton is a member of the citizen’s ballot committee that placed the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment before voters this November.

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