Ohio Legislators Tee Up August Election On Constitutional Change

  • Possible abortion amendment balloting would be affected
  • Lawmakers met deadline for ordering an Aug. 8 election

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Legislators in Ohio agreed Wednesday to ask voters to make it harder to change the state constitution, and to do it in a hurry, before a potential abortion rights amendment goes on the ballot.

After weeks of public argument and behind-the-scenes negotiation, the Ohio House of Representatives needed less than two hours of debate before voting 62-37 for a resolution (SJR 2) that both sets an Aug. 8 election and puts a question before voters on whether to change the current simple-majority adoption of constitutional changes to a 60% threshold. The Senate concurred, 26-7.

At issue: which rules will be in place for the November general election, when voters may be asked to adopt an abortion rights constitutional amendment.

“Under SJR 2, good ideas will pass,” said Rep. Brian Stewart (R), a sponsor of the resolution.

Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D) said that “the only real supporters of this proposal are anti-abortion and anti-gun safety groups.”

“If it is left up to Ohioans, their issues would not pass, and I cannot wait for Ohioans to prove that at the ballot box,” she said on the House floor.

Post-Roe Trend

Ohio’s the latest in a series of states with ballot-box battles following the US Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v Wade.

Last year, voters in deep-red Kansas kept in place their high court’s decision that said the state constitution ensures abortion rights, and reproductive-rights measures prevailed on three other state ballots in November.

In Kentucky, which hasn’t supported a Democratic presidential candidate in more than 25 years, a measure seeking to amend the constitution to include “no right to an abortion” failed.

Other states have also shown that abortion can drive voter turnout, as demonstrated in the recent victory of a state Supreme Court candidate in Wisconsin who supports abortion rights.

In the Ohio statehouse, where Republicans control both the House and Senate, a faction of lawmakers resisted the bid for a special election, which carried an estimated $20 million price tag and was in conflict with a law signed just months ago that abolished most August extra elections.

Every living former governor came out against the proposal, as did former state attorneys general.

Stewart characterized the proposal as necessary to thwart the campaign spending of non-Ohioans.

“If any outside group believes its ideas are worthy of inclusion in Ohio’s constitution, then they should be able to earn the widespread public support that a 60% vote margin will require,” he said.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) had told the legislature it needed to act by Wednesday to give county election officials time to prepare for a special election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Heisig in Ohio at eheisig@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Stephanie Gleason at sgleason@bloombergindustry.com

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