Ohio is gearing up for a pivotal special election on August 8th, where voters will have the chance to decide the fate of Issue 1, a proposal that could significantly impact the right to abortion in the state. This closely watched contest centers on whether to raise the threshold required to amend the Ohio Constitution through the ballot box, making it more difficult to enshrine reproductive rights later this year.
Understanding Issue 1 in Ohio
Issue 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at elevating the standards for placing a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot and securing its approval. It was introduced by a joint resolution of the Ohio legislature and requires any proposed constitutional amendment to garner at least 60% of voters’ support.
Additionally, the amendment mandates that any initiative petition seeking to change the Ohio Constitution after January 1 must be signed by at least 5% of the electors in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. If Issue 1 receives a majority “yes” vote, the raised supermajority threshold will be implemented immediately.
The Arguments For and Against Issue 1
Proponents of Issue 1 argue that it protects the Ohio Constitution from being influenced by deep-pocketed out-of-state interests. By requiring a supermajority for constitutional changes, they contend that it ensures amendments are broadly accepted and reinforces the notion that Ohio’s Constitution is not for sale. They claim that special interests exploit the current threshold, using it to advance their social preferences and corporate motives, which should not be the case.
On the other hand, opponents of Issue 1 assert that it would undermine citizen-driven ballot initiatives, curbing the right of Ohioans to make decisions that directly impact their lives. They argue that the amendment infringes on the principle of “one person, one vote” and erodes the principle of majority rule in the state. Critics view the effort as an attempt by special interests and politicians to gain more power and diminish the voice of the majority.
Polling Data and Public Support for Issue 1
Recent polls reveal varying levels of public support for Issue 1. A Scripps News/YouGov poll in June found that only 38% of Ohio adults favored the proposal, while an Ohio Northern University poll from mid-July showed that 42.4% of registered voters supported it. A USA Today Network/Suffolk University poll released last month indicated that 26.2% of likely voters were in favor of Issue 1.
The Path to the Ballot
Issue 1 landed on the ballot after Ohio’s GOP-led General Assembly approved a joint resolution in May, sending the matter to voters. The legislative body proposed the amendment, utilizing the state’s constitutional process for amendments, which requires three-fifths approval from each house of the General Assembly before being put to a vote.
Backers and Donors behind Issue 1
Notably, the push to raise the threshold for constitutional amendments in Ohio is part of a larger nationwide campaign backed by Richard Uihlein, a prominent GOP mega donor and shipping supplies magnate. Uihlein donated $1.1 million to a political committee advocating for the resolution to increase the threshold. He was also the leading contributor to Protect Our Constitution, the primary organization supporting Issue 1, donating $4 million out of the $4.85 million raised by the group.
Conversely, One Person, One Vote, the main organization opposing Issue 1, received significant funding, with roughly $2.5 million from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based group that champions progressive causes.
The Impact on the Ohio Abortion Amendment
Of utmost significance is the potential impact of Issue 1 on the Ohio abortion amendment. In November, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution through the proposed amendment “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.” The abortion rights measure would need a simple majority to pass, but if Issue 1 is approved, it would be subject to the new 60% supermajority standard, potentially complicating its passage.
As the nation closely watches the outcome of Ohio’s special election, the future of abortion rights in the state hangs in the balance. The results of Issue 1 will set the stage for the high-stakes November ballot measure, making Ohio the focal point of the ongoing national debate over reproductive rights.