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Commentary: Key Ohio Leaders Oppose Issue 1

by DemocracyIssues.com, an Ohio-based Voter Rights initiative
Crowd gathers at Trinity Church near the Ohio Statehouse

Over 250+ organizations in Ohio have organized to oppose Issue 1

In spite of Ohio voters passing a Constitutional Amendment in 2015 to end gerrymandering, and in spite of multiple Ohio Supreme Court orders to do so, the GOP-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission has ignored and refused to remove the current gerrymandered district maps.

The law in Ohio and many other states permits ordinary citizens the right to organize and place a ballot issue before voters to change the state’s constitution. With this right, if citizens believe that a law needs to change, they can undertake a Constitutional Amendment by placing a ballot issue on an upcoming election through a very challenging process.

Major Ohio Voter Rights organizations and many of their supporters are currently examining an effort to organize a Constitutional Amendment to end gerrymandering in the state. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that gerrymandered districts are unconstitutional since they deprive many voters of their right to vote by rigging in advance the outcome of an election in favor of the political party in control of setting up the district maps.

This is the reason why Ohio Voter Rights organizations are exploring another citizen-led Constitutional Amendment that would permanently end gerrymandering. (https://www.democracyissues.com/gerrymandering)

In order to insure in the future that a citizen-led ballot issue does not succeed in ending gerrymandered election districts, Ohio Politicians passed legislation and then placed Issue 1 on the ballot that will make it almost impossible to pass a new Constitutional Amendment.

One of the requirements of Issue 1 is to raise the threshold for passage from the current 50% of the votes, to instead, 60%.  This will permit a minority of 40% of the voters to control the outcome of any citizen-led ballot issue.

As soon as Ohio law makers introduced the legislation in the General Assembly behind Issue 1, over 250+ organizations joined a coalition to oppose this proposed Constitutional Amendment.

Past Ohio governors oppose Issue 1

An article published on June 27, 2023 by Avery Kreemer in the Dayton Daily News was titled Former Gov. Taft: Issue 1 is ‘state leaders trying to game the system– and it stated:

“A former Republican Ohio governor (Bob Taft) has taken to the road to restate his opposition to State Issue 1, the proposal to make it harder to amend the state constitution . . .

 “This is a fundamental change in Ohio’s voting rights,” Taft said, according to the Dayton Daily News . . . “I just think it’s a major mistake to approve or disapprove such a change at the lowest-turnout election (August) that we have.”

In an article in the Toledo Blade by Jim Provance, comments from former Republican Governor John Kasich were shared:

“John Kasich, Republican governor from 2011 to 2019, tweeted that it would never have occurred to him to try such a move.

“Ohio is stronger when we can all lend our voices and we all have an equal chance to participate in the work of our state’s democracy.”

Provance also shared comments from former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland:

“Ted Strickland, Democratic governor from 2007 to 2011, told The Blade the maneuver is “dishonorable, despicable, and hypocritical.”

“Just a few months have passed since they passed legislation regarding August initiatives being prohibited except in rare circumstances, and now, when they are afraid that Ohio women are going to establish in our constitution their right to control their own bodies, they are in a panic,” he said. “They want to keep that from happening. “Everybody knows what is happening.”

In addition to the strong opposition by former Governors Bob Taft, John Kasich, and Ted Strickland, a fourth former Ohio Governor, Dick Celeste, has also voiced strong opposition to Issue 1. 

Past Ohio Attorney Generals oppose Issue 1

Five former Ohio Attorney Generals (Richard A. Cordray, Lee I. Fisher, Betty D. Montgomery, James M. Petro and Nancy H. Rogers) came together and issued a strongly worded joint letter opposing Issue 1:

“. . . If the increase in the passing percentage had been in effect, many important amendments that are part of our political heritage would have failed, including the initiative and referendum, home rule, civil service reform, the Clean Ohio Fund, the Third Frontier Project, and other important bond issues to support economic development, conservation, and housing.

“. . . The 60% proposal is bad for Ohio, and the General Assembly should not place this proposal on the ballot; but if they do, Ohio voters should reject this effort to change a fundamental element of our state constitution that has been in effect for more than 100 years.”

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