Voters in Ohio have a critical decision to make this Tuesday when they head to the polls for a special election concerning Issue 1. If passed, it will increase the threshold of voter approval needed to pass future amendments to the state constitution from a simple majority to 60%.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who proposed the measure, believes that it is necessary for keeping wealthy out-of-state special interests from influencing Ohio’s founding document. “We’re talking about something that could alter the very core of our legal system for decades,” LaRose noted.
On the opposing side, some suspect the timing of the referendum was meant to counter an upcoming constitutional amendment coming up on the November ballot which would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution.
This Tuesday, Ohioans must decide: does the current system need revising or not? With so much at stake, every vote counts.
In Ohio, abortion access was severely limited last summer when the state’s six week abortion ban went into effect. This sparked outrage when news broke of a 10-year-old rape victim being denied treatment from Ohio doctors and having to seek care out of state.
A lawsuit led to the ban being temporarily halted, but activists weren’t content with just that. To ensure that women in Ohio had guaranteed access to safe abortions, grassroots organizations began working on an amendment for the state constitution that would guarantee this right. In order to get the amendment onto the November ballot, signatures were collected from citizens across the state.
However, Republican lawmakers with a majority in the state legislature were deeply opposed to the amendment and prevented it from appearing on the May primary ballot. To counter this, they devised a new plan – pushing for an August special election. The struggle continues as pro-choice and pro-life groups fight it out over access to reproductive healthcare in Ohio.
Amidst a flurry of controversy and disagreement, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has recently made a bold move, endorsing the Republican-backed call for the elimination of most August special elections. When asked about his stance on the matter, LaRose insisted that it “shouldn’t be an issue” – despite the fact that such elections haven’t taken place since 1926.
The decision has sparked strong reactions from Ohio residents. Although many Republicans agree with LaRose’s logic, many Democrats are protesting the amendment, claiming that it is an unconstitutional violation of their rights to vote. With tensions high and the 2020 election just around the corner, both sides continue to battle over this critical issue.
Hundreds of opponents descended on the Ohio Statehouse in May in response to Republican lawmakers’ proposed measure to raise the approval threshold for amendments to the state constitution from simple majority to 60%. This polarizing effort was met with a massive coalition formed of those who felt this change would strip citizens and interest groups of their right to put forth constitutional amendments, as it would require signatures from all 88 counties instead of just 44.
In Ohio, a state that is both vast and rural in scope, such an increase in signature requirements would make it extremely difficult for grassroots organizations to get needed support. Historical records demonstrate how hard citizen-initiated constitutional amendment efforts can be, given that there have only been 19 successful amendments since 1912 – a minuscule figure compared to the 172 amendments approved by the state itself within the same time frame.
It is clear that raising the required threshold for referendum approval would severely weaken citizens’ ability to bring storied changes into effect through traditional means. Ohioans must stand firm in this moment of opposition and strive to preserve their long-held right to self-determination.
The Republicans in Ohio’s state legislature, with a supermajority advantage, have passed a measure that will draw national attention. The resulting referendum has sparked controversy due to the major groups of supporters and opponents involved.
Supporters for Issue 1 include anti-abortion organizations, gun rights groups, and the state’s major business groups who are concerned about the passing of a minimum wage amendment. On the other hand, Union groups, abortion rights advocates, gun law reform activists, and a handful of Ohio’s four living ex-governors and five former attorneys general from both parties have declared their dissent.
Protests and chants of “One Person, One Vote!” erupted in the Ohio House chamber as soon as lawmakers easily passed the plan. Those opposed to the measure argue that it breaches a law which bans most August special elections. However, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that this law does not apply to legislators looking to put a constitutional amendment before voters.
This case is garnering more attention by the day, making it a hot topic in the nation right now. How it plays out might prove vital in navigating the path ahead for Ohio’s future.
As Ohioans head to the polls on Tuesday, former state Representative Mike Curtin has been one of the leading advocates for a “no” vote on Issue 1. The proposal is an amendment to the state constitution that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to modify the constitution in the future.
“It’s a rush job of a monumental question,” said Curtin. “Ohioans have traditionally had the right to amend their state constitution with a simple majority – this would shift that to 60% approval.”
Despite the timing of the proposal – during the August vacation season when turn-out is typically low – Ohioans are heading out to cast their votes anyway, with some areas observing long lines at early voting locations. Ads on both sides of the issue have totaled around $22 million, much of it coming from outside of Ohio.
This single issue looms large on the ballots today, and Curtin encourages Ohioans to take a stand against it. “Let your voices be heard,” he says.