Election Reforms can— PROTECT Democracy . . . and the Republic
Commentary: Ohio Voter Rights in Danger
40% of Voters Would Control the Outcome of Future Ballot Issues
by DemocracyIssues.com, an Ohio-based Voter Rights initiative
Legislation passed by the Ohio General Assembly authorizing a constitutional amendment (Issue 1) that would make it almost impossible to pass most future citizen-led ballot issues in Ohio has been placed on the ballot in a Special Election on August 8, 2023; a timing that historically has drawn low voter turnout.
A separate bill, Senate Bill 92 (SB92) to authorize the extra $20 million in tax payer money needed to pay for the costs of the Issue 1 election did not pass the legislature.
One key provision of Issue 1 is to raise the threshold for voter passage of a citizen-led Constitutional Amendment from the current 50%, to instead, 60%.
If it passes, Issue 1 will allow a minority of 40% of the voters to control the outcome of future citizen-led ballot issues over the wishes of 60% of the voters. (https://www.democracyissues.com/ballotissuesattacked)
Deceiving Ohio Citizens
Supporters of this new legislation claim that it is needed in order to “protect the Ohio Constitution from continued abuse by special interests and out-of-state activists,” as stated by Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State.
In an article in the Columbus Dispatch, Mike Curtain stated,
“To be charitable, LaRose is flat wrong . . . The anti-monopoly amendment (note: a separate existing Ohio law), now firmly embedded in our Ohio Constitution (Article II, Section 1e), forbids the initiative (Ballot Issue) process from being used to confer any exclusive economic benefit to any special interest.”
Further undermining LaRose’s claims about Issue 1 providing protections against “special interests and out-of-state activists” is information released by the Columbus Dispatch. The newspaper disclosed that an out-of-state (Illinois) billionaire activist, Richard Uihlein, gave $1 million to a PAC to fund the campaign for Issue 1 to supposedly protect Ohio citizens from “out-of-state activists (like himself).”
Why are supporters of this proposed law not being transparent with Ohio Citizens?
The Primary Sponsor of the legislation behind Issue 1 is Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville). An article in the Statehouse News Bureau by Jo Ingles and Karen Kasler on May 10, 2023 explained the truthful motivation behind this legislation.
Representative Stewart explained in his letter that this legislation was designed to protect Ohio’s current law against abortions and Ohio’s current practice of gerrymandering that has created rigged election districts in the state that guarantee the re-election of a majority of GOP candidates—
” . . .in a (private) letter to his Republican lawmakers that surfaced in December, Stewart made it clear that the main drivers (behind Issue 1) were defeating abortion(ballot issue in November that would permit abortions in Ohio) and (protecting) gerrymandering (rigged election districts in Ohio) . . .“
Issue 1 Designed to Prevent any Constitutional Amendments by Citizens
Other provisions of Issue 1 add even more barriers to citizen-led ballot issues.
Issue 1 will still require 414,000 valid voter signatures through a petition drive (10% of the votes in the last governor’s race). Currently, a petition drive also needs signatures from 5% of the votes cast in the last governor’s race in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties; a very difficult requirement to meet.
However, Issue 1 raises this requirement to 5% of the votes cast in the last governor’s race in each of Ohio’s 88 counties which is an incredibly difficult and costly requirement.
Issue 1’s requirements that create new and extremely high barriers for petition signatures together with the increased threshold to 60% will make it virtually impossible for the success of a citizen-led ballot issue.
Only very wealthy and well funded special interests will be able to even attempt the Issue 1 requirements.
Opponents of this legislation charge that it is an attack on voter rights and democracy in Ohio in order for a small group of politicians to retain almost total Power and Control.
Protections of 111 year old Ohio Law needed more than ever
The current law permitting citizen-led ballot issues has been in place in Ohio since 1912, or over 111 years.
“Ohioans voted to give themselves the right to initiate amendments (to the Ohio Constitution) in September of 1912. They did so because the state legislature was among the most corrupt in the nation. Corporate cash lined lawmakers’ pockets. The legislature was deaf to citizen demands for change,” stated the Columbus Dispatch’s Mike Curtain.
In an article in 2021, Time Magazine stated-
“USA Today was probably right when it said Ohio was the most corrupt state in the country.”
On March 9, 2023, senior Ohio GOP leaders were convicted of criminal racketeering involving a $61 million bribery scheme funded by Ohio-based First Energy. These GOP leaders were successful in using the bribery money to get other GOP members elected to the Ohio Legislature. They then passed a new law requiring citizens to pay $1.4 billion of subsidies to First Energy through their utility bills in order to bail out the utility company and its two struggling nuclear power plants.
The 111-year old voter rights law that Issue 1 would significantly damage is needed even more today than it was during the corruption in 1912.