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An Ohio special election will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 8. With only one issue on the ballot, voters will approve or reject a measure that will make it more difficult to amend the state constitution. (Submitted photo)

Ohio Special Election | State Republicans push Issue 1

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Editor’s Note: The deadline to register to vote is Monday, July 10. Click here to check your voter registration status. Early voting for the Aug. 8 election begins Tuesday, July 11. 

In a special statewide election on Tuesday, Aug. 8, Ohio voters will approve or reject a proposed ballot initiative that will make it harder to amend the Ohio state constitution. If passed, the revised amendment would raise the threshold for passing future constitutional changes from a simple majority to 60 percent.

Republican lawmakers added the measure to the ballot last month following a joint resolution approved by the Ohio Ballot Board last month, and some tweaking as mandated by the Ohio State Supreme Court.

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“This [measure] is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose told the Statehouse News Bureau last month. LaRose also chairs the Ohio Ballot Board.

If approved by a majority of voters, the proposed amendment would become effective immediately.

The proposed amendment passed by lawmakers would:

• Require that any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Ohio receive the approval of at least 60 percent of eligible voters voting on the proposed amendment.

• Require that any initiative petition filed on or after Jan. 1, 2024, with the Secretary of State which proposes to amend the Constitution of the State of Ohio be signed by at least five percent of the eligible voters of each county in the state.

• Specify that additional signatures may not be added to an initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State on or after Jan. 1, 2024, which proposes to amend the Constitution of the State of Ohio.

The News spoke last week with local resident Lori Askeland, who is Greene County Democratic Party precinct captain at large. Precinct captains are elected positions within each party and play a role in disseminating important information about legislation to voters in the state.

According to Askeland, Issue 1 was created and passed by Republicans through the Ohio state legislature in the spring.

“They were afraid of the possibilities of the petition that’s been going around to secure reproductive rights for all Ohioans, I think, especially after a similar ballot initiative passed in Kansas,” Askeland said. “My sense politically behind the scenes is that they became very aware that their position and their hardline position on reproductive rights was not popular, and was not going to stand if put before the Ohio voters.”

Askeland added that the process through which the legislation was approved was hasty and in response to a ballot initiative called “Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety amendment” that aims to protect the reproductive rights of Ohioans.

On Wednesday, July 5, the nonpartisan umbrella organization, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights announced that a petition with over 700,000 signatures — collected from all 88 counties — for that ballot initiative had been submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State.

According to the petition submitted and approved for the Nov. 7 ballot, under the current Ohio constitution guidelines in place for over 100 years, the initiative would prohibit the state from interfering or discriminating against individuals’ healthcare decisions related to reproductive rights.

The petition read: “The State shall not directly or indirectly burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.”

“Knowing that the petition ballot initiative was going to be coming to Ohio voters in November on reproductive rights, they quickly, very hurriedly passed their own initiative — which they do not need to collect signatures for,” Askeland said. “Obviously, they can just pass it to take away citizens’ rights to change the Ohio Constitution, to amend it in any way that aligns with Ohioans’ needs.”

If Issue 1 is approved in August, Askeland noted, it would be under the current constitutional process allowing for a simple majority to pass, but then immediately require more ballot signatures, impacting The Ohio Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative on the ballot in November.

“We have this early voting process in August, the ballot is Issue 1, [determined by] a simple majority for amendment passing. [If approved] it would then be 60%, and then petitions would have to go to all 88 counties instead of 44, and require more signatures,” Askeland said.

According to Askeland, Issue 1 would also make the petitioning process for getting initiatives placed on the ballot more difficult, because a 10-day “cure” period for getting more signatures if needed after turning in petitions would be eliminated.

“They’ve taken away that 10 days,” Askeland said. “So, you could go collect all of those signatures, turn them in, and if you are one signature short, that’s it. You have to start over from scratch.”

Issue 1 doesn’t just affect reproductive rights, Askeland believes: it impacts future ballot initiatives regardless of political beliefs.

“It’s everything. Another ballot initiative that’s currently circulating that a lot of people would’ve signed is for marijuana legalization. They don’t want that to pass either,” Askeland said.

According to Askeland, even past conservative votes that utilized the current constitutional process regarding ballot initiatives in place would have been difficult to pass via the proposed Issue 1 and there is currently no evidence “of any egregious misuse.”

“There have been things that have passed that I didn’t like such as when Ohio passed the Defense of Marriage thing that made gay marriages illegal in Ohio,  according to the Constitution, until that was overturned by the Supreme Court. I didn’t like that my fellow Ohioans voted that way, but it was their vote. It was a legal process,” she said.

The influential sphere and funding source for Issue 1 comes from out-of-state sources, including the “Save our Constitution’’ super PAC  initiated by Illinois-based Dick Uihlein, billionaire heir of Schlitz Brewing company and founder of Uline Corporation, one of the largest producers of shipping products in the nation. Uihlein comes from a family that has contributed to far-right causes for decades, donating exclusively to Republican candidates nation-wide, including a Senate primary run by former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, according to a Feb. 2023 Politico magazine article titled “House divided: the megadonor couple battling in the GOP’s civil war.” He was also a financial supporter of the Jan. 6 rallies in support of overturning the election results in which former president Donald Trump was voted out of office.

“Hundreds and thousands of citizens are actually, I think, less prone to external influences than the Ohio State legislature,” Askeland said. “We are under the influence of powerful national and international forces who do not want direct democracy. They do not want the sort of principles of one person, one vote.”

Askeland said she is empathetic with voters who may be disengaged with the current political process, but still encourages people to vote.

“Your vote has power. A lot of people already are very disenchanted with both parties, and I don’t blame them, feeling like they’re both pretty corporate,” Askeland said. “You have a lot of people who are already disengaged with democracy … this idea that the people have the right to have a voice in their government, this the place where we have the most voice in our government. And they want to shut that down.”

Early voting in Ohio begins July 11 and the official election day is Tuesday Aug. 8 and Askeland suggests that people plan to vote in advance, especially with the election occurring at a time when many voters make vacation plans out of state. “We’ve been really focused on just getting Yellow Springers out in particular because while we are very good, reliable voters,” Askeland said.

Askeland said it will be a push to get people out to the polls.”We have a lot of politically engaged people, still even with that, it’s going to take an extra effort for people to remember to take care of this,” she said. “A lot of people  just aren’t thinking about elections in the summertime.

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One Response to “Ohio Special Election | State Republicans push Issue 1”

  1. Robert T Bebout Jr says:

    nice to see that just 2 paragraphs were involving a republican(LaRose) thqt wasn’t even interviewed and the rest from a libbie operative…mainstream media is becoming quite infectious, eh yellow springs?

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