Ohio Issue 1 Rejected in Special Election

By Addison Burke, Staff Writer

On Aug. 8, Ohio voters rejected a Republican-supported measure that would have increased the number of votes needed for a new state constitutional amendment to pass.

The defeat of the proposition, known as Issue 1, keeps in place a simple majority in order to threshold for passing future state constitutional amendments, rather than the 60% supermajority presented. 

Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

The failed measure also proposed that citizens of the state who wanted to amend the state constitution or create a new law would have to obtain signatures from five percent of voters from all 88 counties, increasing it from the current requirement of 44 counties in order to get propositions on the ballot.

More than 3 million people voted on Issue 1, and the proposal ultimately failed, as around 1.74 million Ohioans, or 57% of the total voters, voted no. Locally, Hamilton County voted no on Issue 1 with 67% of the vote.

Supporters of Issue 1, including Republican leaders of the state legislature, stated that the higher bar for approving amendments would have protected Ohio’s constitution from external special interest groups. 

In January, Ohio Republicans enacted a law that removed August special elections from the calendar. But a few months later, as reproductive rights groups were close to proposing their own constitutional amendment on the ballot for November, Republicans in the state legislature rescheduled an August election to vote on Issue 1. Only 18 states held special elections this August.

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, noted the importance of the special election.

“An awful lot of ballot questions come and go. This is one that has lasting consequences,” he stated.

“If this would have passed it would have changed the rules for every question and every issue that voters care about, so Issue 1 was first and foremost a basic question of democracy if majorities are going to win if we put questions on the ballot,” Niven said. 

Issue 1 was proposed by Republican State Representative Brian Stewart and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Stewart and LaRose proposed this issue to make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments, especially those surrounding controversial issues like abortion.

This election marked the latest statewide battle over  access to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Advocacy groups on both sides of the issue spent millions of dollars in advertising leading up to the special election. 

Ohio voters will now have the chance to decide on a constitutional amendment that would ensure access to reproductive healthcare like abortions, contraception, and  in vitro fertilization during the November election. After this special election’s results, many other groups, such as those supporting a higher minimum wage, are fighting to get their  proposed amendments on future ballots.

There have been 76 bills introduced this year across the country aiming to raise thresholds for state constitutional amendments. In June, South Dakota voters rejected a bid to raise the threshold for ballot measures to 60%.

President Joe Biden commended the results in a written statement released on the election night surrounding Issue 1.

“This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions,” he said. 

“Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won,” Biden added. 

Caption: Millions of Ohio voters casted their ballots on Issue 1 this August. The measure, which would have  raised the threshold for passing proposed state constitutional amendments to 60%, ultimately failed.