Higher threshold to amend Ohio Constitution heading to vote : NPR
Julie Carr Smyth/AP
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio voters will have a chance to decide whether to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments just before a possible November vote on an amendment that would embrace abortion rights in the state.
A resolution asking voters in an August election to raise the threshold for future amendments from a simple majority to 60% approved the politically divided Ohio House 62-37 on Wednesday. Five Republican majorities joined all Democrats in opposing it. The political battle consumed the state for months.
Since the United States Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade guaranteeing abortion rights last year, other states’ amendments involving the procedure showed that voter support for legal access to abortion is between 50% and 60%, whether in conservative Kansas, Democratic-leaning Michigan or Republican-leaning Kentucky. No vote exceeded 60%.
The AP VoteCast poll last year found that 59% of Ohio voters said abortion should generally be legal.
Republican backers of the resolution continued to characterize the effort as an act of constitutional protection aimed at keeping entrenched special interests out of Ohio’s founding documents, while Democrats slammed it as an attack on democracy.
Screams of protest rose from the state during Wednesday’s debate, with Democratic lawmakers producing hand-painted signs from under their chairs right after the vote and storming out of the room chanting. , “One person, one vote.”
The measure’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Brian Stewart, said the protesters did not bother him.
“You have 150 people with T-shirts in a state of 12 million people,” he said. “That’s fine. They can come and put the ring, but we expect this will be a robust and well-received election, and we believe it will pass when Ohioans get their chance to vote.”
The labor-backed We Are Ohio coalition launched an immediate opposition campaign. Other opponents include every living former governor of the state, both former Republican and Democratic attorneys general and the Ohio Libertarian Party.
Kayla Griffin of All Voting is Local, a voting rights organization that is part of the We Are Ohio coalition, said lawmakers “shouldn’t underestimate us when we show up in August.”
Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said, “We call on every Ohioan to knock on doors, call the bank, register voters and not only let them know that there is an August election, but that our ability to determine our future as voters is on the line.”
Among the maneuvers used to get the resolution past its GOP opposition was to remove language Tuesday that would send the question to an August ballot. Opponents of that strategy pointed to the fact that it was only in January that a new electoral law was signed that eliminates most of the August special elections.
State Rep. Sharon Ray, who offered the amendment pushing the 60% question to Ohio’s next scheduled general or special election, said an August election would add “another level of complication” to the already hard work of local election workers.
“I made a promise to our board of elections,” the Republican said. “Remember, these are our neighbors and friends who work very hard to provide flawless elections for us – most of them volunteers, they are paid a simple stipend – and, I think, I appreciate their sacrifice.”
The language was reintroduced to the floor Wednesday, with minor changes that required it to go back through the Ohio Senate, which easily approved it.