The Ohio Ballot Board voted on Tuesday to modify ballot language for a proposal that would make it harder to amend the state constitution. This move follows a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that language on the ballot was misleading to voters. The ballot language in question specifically pertained to a Republican-backed proposal, Issue 1, that seeks to increase the vote threshold required to amend the state constitution.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the original ballot language was misleading and fell short of accurately describing the proposed constitutional amendment. The court unanimously ruled that the ballot board was wrong to describe the proposal as increasing the standards to qualify “any” constitutional amendment for the ballot, as the stringent new signature-gathering requirements apply only to citizen-led ballot initiatives and not those advanced by the Ohio General Assembly.
The court’s decision was followed by a vote by the Ohio Ballot Board, which decided to modify the language on the ballot. The new language now defines the Republican-backed proposal as “elevating the standards to qualify for an initiated constitutional amendment and to pass a constitutional amendment.”
Opponents urged Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to change the verb to “changing” or “modifying,” but he declined. LaRose’s office wrote the revised wording, which leaves out that Ohio would be amending a simple majority standard that has been in place since 1912, something opponents seek to highlight. The new language approved by the panel explains that citizen-led amendment campaigns must gather signatures equivalent to 5% of the vote for governor, not of all electors, in “each county.”
If the proposed amendment is adopted, it will raise the threshold for passing future constitutional amendments in Ohio from a simple majority to 60%. This move by Statehouse Republicans aims to thwart a November proposal to enshrine abortion access in the Ohio Constitution. Similar proposals have passed with well over half the vote in other states, but not in Ohio.
Many opponents argue that increasing the vote threshold is part of a concerted effort by Republicans to limit the ballot initiative process and undermine the democratic process. Voting rights advocates and Democrats have expressed concern that the process of gathering enough signatures to push ahead with a constitutional amendment will be much more difficult if the proposed amendment is adopted.
Opponents to Issue 1 sought to make further changes to the language on the ballot, which would have highlighted the fact that the amendment would double the number of counties where signatures must be gathered, from the current 44 to all 88 and eliminate an existing cure period, during which campaigns that fall short by a few signatures get a handful of days to make up the difference. However, such changes were not accepted by the Ohio Ballot Board.
The proposal will appear on the state ballot in August and voters will learn from the summary that the proposed 60% amendment also calls for eliminating an existing cure period, during which campaigns that fall short by a few signatures get a handful of days to make up the difference.
Ohioans protest for and against the proposed measure, which could have far-reaching consequences for the future of the state’s political landscape. The language on the ballot has been reworded after it was initially ruled misleading by the state Supreme Court.
The move by Statehouse Republicans to raise the vote threshold required to amend the state constitution has been met with widespread criticism. Opponents say that the proposed amendment is an attempt to limit the ballot initiative process and to undermine democratic practices in Ohio. The proposed amendment will be put to a vote in August, and the result could have far-reaching implications for the future of the state’s political landscape.