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Fear and Power: What Really Drives Issue 1 on Aug. 8 in Ohio

A teacher tells his students that phones are not allowed in class. One day, a student points out that the teacher is often on his phone. The teacher replies that the rule doesn’t apply to him, only to them. 

A student turns in a research paper a day after it is due. The student knows that 10% will be deducted from the final score, which is the teacher’s late work policy established at the beginning of the year. However, the paper is returned with 50% deducted from the grade. When the student questions the teacher, the teacher simply says that she changed the rules. 

A teacher decides to allow students to vote on whether to have homework assignments during the school year and 59% of the students vote not to have homework. When the teacher shares the results, a majority of the students rejoice! But then the teacher announces that since the NO votes didn’t reach 60%, homework is going to stay. 

Any credibility these teachers had would be damaged at best and quite possibly destroyed by these actions. Not following their own rules? Changing the established, fair policies to much harsher ones? Eliminating majority rule? These teachers would be viewed by their students as hypocritical, manipulative, and untrustworthy…which is exactly how we should view the Ohio legislators who support Issue 1. 

Ohio Legislators are failing to follow their own rules

In December 2022, the state legislature voted to eliminate August elections. But now those same lawmakers argue that the rule they enacted doesn’t apply to them; it only applies to small, local elections.

Why the change of heart? Because a grassroots group of Ohio citizens has submitted petitions to get an amendment on the November ballot that would protect reproductive rights in Ohio. 

Many Republicans, who hold a supermajority in Ohio, do not want to see the citizen-based reproductive rights amendment pass in Ohio. So they concocted a plan. They decided to make it more difficult for a citizen-based amendment to pass, but they realized they needed to do that before the reproductive rights amendment appears on the ballot in November … and that means having an election in August, something they banned less than a year ago. 

Ohio Legislators are changing well-established, fair policies 

Proponents of Issue 1 say its purpose is to defend the Ohio Constitution against frequent attacks of special interest groups. What legislators are really trying to protect is their own power. When Ohioans made it clear that we are willing to exercise our rights to try to amend the Constitution when legislators fail to represent our values, the legislature put an issue on the ballot that would make it difficult for citizens to ever again affect a change in the Constitution.

Currently, to get an amendment to the Constitution on the ballot, there are multiple steps, including but not limited to getting signatures from at least 5% of the total votes in the last election for governor. Petition signatures must be from registered voters and from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Since 1913, only 71 citizen-based amendments have made it to the ballot, and of those, only 19 were approved by the voters. This is most certainly not an overused tactic to change the Ohio Constitution. 

If Issue 1 passes, the petition signatures must come from all 88 of Ohio’s counties and include 5% of voters who voted in the last election for governor. Issue 1 also eliminates the 10-day period petitioners have to gather more signatures if not enough of the original signatures meet the requirements. These harsher demands make getting a proposed amendment to the Constitution on the ballot extraordinarily unlikely. 

Ohio Legislators are ending majority rule

In the unlikely event that an amendment makes it to the ballot, Issue 1 requires that 60% of Ohioans must approve an amendment in order for it to pass, as opposed to the current standard of a simple majority, 50% + 1. (Ironically, Issue 1 only needs a simple majority to pass). Majority rule has been the default threshold for victory in Ohio elections for more than 100 years, but fearful of losing their power to ordinary (and organized) citizens, the legislature decided to change what determines a winner mid-game. Issue 1 is an attack on our voting rights, plain and simple.

It’s crucial to remember, however, that Issue 1 is not about abortion

Regardless of what our Secretary of State says (rather disrespectfully, I would argue): “(Issue 1 is) 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November.” Jam it through? Is that how he views Ohio citizens who exercise their democratic rights by following the legal (and lengthy) process to make changes to the state constitution? 

Let’s be real. The move to protect reproductive rights is simply the catalyst causing our legislators to fear losing their often unilateral power.  

They’ve managed to largely protect their own power by gerrymandering the state, but citizen-based amendments to the constitution represent a threat that there is no easy way to quell, short of changing both the rules that have been well-established for years, and the rules they set themselves less than a year ago. 

Regardless of the outcome of Issue 1 in August, the reproductive rights amendment is heading for the November ballot.  I urge you to base your vote in November on your feelings about abortion and reproductive rights. 

But I beg you, don’t base your vote in August on your feelings about abortion and reproductive rights. Issue 1 has nothing to do with that. Issue 1 has everything to do with an already powerful legislature trying to further silence their constituents.  Their supermajority affords them the ability to pass a myriad of laws with impunity, but that’s not enough for them. They want to take away one of the only guardrails we have left as citizens when one party gains a trifecta of dominance in our state government. 

It’s worth noting that the egregious consequences of passing Issue 1 would impact BOTH parties. 

Republicans and Democrats alike have the same rights to get a proposed constitutional amendment on future ballots, about any number of issues. Issue 1 makes this more difficult, regardless of which party the citizens who begin the process belong to. 

I wonder if the legislators who support Issue 1 are more afraid of losing power or of the Ohioans who refuse to remain silent and allow the legislature to set the course for our state without our input?

As educators, we must be vigilant in using our voices to advocate for change when laws are manipulated to reflect personal agendas instead of the will of the people. With the recent expansion of universal vouchers, the state will spend billions of dollars funding private and charter school tuition and homeschooling for families, regardless of how wealthy those families might be. Furthermore, the legislature has stripped power from the elected State School Board and given much of the decision-making authority in education-related issues to an appointed partisan official. 

With legislators making moves like this, we can ill afford to lose any of the tools available to citizens to make changes that better reflect the interests of Ohio’s kids and families. 

Ohio legislators who support Issue 1 might well be motivated by a fear of losing power. But there is great power in losing the fear of standing up to those who ignore our interests. 

Fear, I predict, will fail. Because just like the teachers in the scenarios above would quickly lose credibility, our legislators are playing games that will cost them the trust of Ohioans. 

Source : OHIOCapital



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