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Initiative could make it harder for voters to change Ohio constitution

Those hoping to enshrine abortion rights or legalize marijuana in Ohio may find it more challenging if Issue 1 passes on Tuesday.
Initiative could make it harder for voters to change Ohio constitution
Posted at 1:23 PM, Aug 07, 2023

Voters in Ohio will decide Tuesday whether to make it harder to amend the state's constitution. The initiative comes just three months before voters will decide whether to overturn the state legislature's "heartbeat bill," which would effectively ban abortions after six weeks. 

A yes vote for Ohio Issue 1 would raise the threshold to change the state's constitution from a simple majority of the state's voters to 60%. It would also require those petitioning a change to the state's constitution to get signatures from 5% of the number of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election from all 88 counties. The bill would also make petitioners start over if they file a petition that does not have enough legal signatures. 

The issue was placed on the ballot by Ohio's GOP-led legislature. Sixty-seven of the 99 members of the Ohio House are Republican, while 26 Republicans serve in the 33-member Senate. 

The bill would essentially make it more challenging for voters to overturn decisions made by the state's legislature.

SEE MORE: Poll: Ohio divided on ballot measure threatening abortion protections

Advocates for and against the issue summarized their arguments in a voter guide prepared by the office of the Ohio Secretary of State.

Advocates for Issue 1 say that the bill would take power away from special interests. 

"Currently, special interests target Ohio, seeking to inject their own personal views and objectives into our state’s most sacred document. Why? Because Ohio is one of the few states that allow these interests to directly enshrine their social preferences and corporate motives into the Constitution at the same threshold as everyday laws," wrote State Rep. Brian Stewart and State Sen. Rob McColley.

But opponents say the bill takes power away from voters. 

"This amendment would destroy citizen-driven ballot initiatives as we know them, upending our right to make decisions that directly impact our lives. It takes away our freedom by undermining the sacred principle of 'one person, one vote' and destroys majority rule in Ohio," wrote a group of Democratic lawmakers. 

Many of the bill's proponents have not shied away from the fact that this effort is being made ahead of a November vote that could once again legalize abortion in Ohio. 

Anti-abortion groups, such as Ohio Right to Life, have organized support for Issue 1. Meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights, such as Planned Parenthood, have been organizing opposition to the bill. 

SEE MORE: Most in US don't support full abortion bans, even in states with them

The "heartbeat bill" has not been enforced during legal battles over its constitutionality. As it stands, abortions are generally legal in Ohio through 22 weeks. 

A Scripps/YouGov poll conducted earlier this year revealed that about 58% of Ohio voters support enshrining abortion rights in the state's constitution. 

Abortion is far from the only issue that Issue 1 could impact. 

There are also efforts underway to legalize marijuana and change how legislative districts are drawn in the state. 

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