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Why Are Some Legislators Trying to Make it Harder for Ohioans to Pass Constitutional Amendments?

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The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a resolution that would make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution. They want to schedule a special election in August for voters to decide whether this resolution should become the new law – and should apply to the November election. Why? Because they don’t want an amendment enshrining abortion rights into the Constitution to be on the ballot in the November election.

In order to get a proposed amendment to the Constitution on the ballot under the current law, citizen groups must get voter signatures on a petition in 44 out of the 88 counties in Ohio. There is a 10-day grace period to replace any invalid signatures. For the amendment to pass, it needs more than 50% of the vote.

The new resolution (itself a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution) would increase the voter threshold from 50% to 60%. It also would require citizen groups to get voter signatures from all 88 counties instead of just 44, and it would eliminate the 10-day grace period. In other words, it would make it harder for the citizens of this state to amend their own constitution.

One of the problems with this resolution is the proposed ballot language fails to mention any of this. When voters go to the polls in August, they will have no idea of the implication of the changes to the amendment process. That kind of gaming violates the Ohio Constitution, which says “ballot language shall properly identify the substance of the proposal to be voted upon.” The Ohio Constitution also says ballot-issue language is invalid if it is intended to mislead, deceive, or defraud the voters.

The legislators who passed the resolution have suggested they are just trying to protect the Ohio Constitution. But that’s just a pretext. It is obvious they’re trying to make it harder for the abortion-rights amendment to pass in the November election. Polls show a majority of Ohioans support the proposed amendment because they oppose abortion bans that prevent a woman having a miscarriage from getting help or force a child who’s been raped to give birth. Some legislators don’t want this particular amendment to pass, so they are trying to change the rules in the middle of the game. They are trying to take away “majority rules” when it comes to abortion.

To change the rules before the November election, however, Ohioans must vote on the changes beforehand. That’s why the Ohio Senate passed legislation in April that would have allocated $20 million to the Secretary of State for a special August election. But that proposal died in a House committee, which means Ohio does not even have the funds necessary to hold a proper election in August.

Whatever your position may be on abortion, it is important to understand that what is happening here is anti-democratic. This initiative seeks to make it much more difficult for many Ohioans to amend their constitution, and it seeks to do it without properly educating Ohioans about what exactly they are voting on. The hidden agenda might be the abortion issue now; who knows what it will be in the future. Nothing is off the table, except the fact that 50% majority will now no longer be enough or the norm.

It seems to us at The Eisen Law Firm that voting should never be done in the dark; citizens should know and understand what they are voting on and then let the chips fall where they may. An informed electorate is critical to a functioning democracy, and this new initiative seems designed to create the opposite. That is disappointing and dangerous.

At The Eisen Law Firm, we strongly believe that the right to vote is one of the most precious rights guaranteed to all Ohio citizens. That’s why we stay on top of any efforts (by the Legislature or by special interest groups) that threaten to violate this sacred right. To learn more about The Eisen Law Firm, please call us (216-687-0900) or visit our website: