A new proposal from Ohio GOP leaders would make it harder for voters to amend the state constitution, an avenue advocates for abortion access and redistricting reform are expected to pursue in the coming years.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, are spearheading an effort to require 60% of voters to enact citizen-led amendments, instead of a simple majority of 50% plus one vote. The measure unveiled Thursday comes in the form of a proposed amendment that voters would need to approve before it takes effect.
The change would not apply to the state’s initiated statute process, meaning it would not affect current efforts to legalize recreational marijuana. Amendments put forward by the Legislature, which require a supermajority in both chambers to place on the ballot, would still only need a simple majority of voters to pass.
“Ohio’s constitution has been far too susceptible to efforts by outside groups and special interests seeking to alter the people’s constitution to achieve their own ends,” Stewart said. “We have repeatedly watched as special interests buy their way onto the statewide ballot and then spend millions of dollars drowning the airwaves seeking to secure fundamental changes to our state.”
Illinois and Florida also require constitutional amendments to pass with 60% of the vote.
The resolution, introduced by Stewart, needs to pass both the state House and Senate with 60% of the vote to be placed on the ballot. LaRose said he hopes to put the question before voters in the May election, which means the Legislature would need to pass it by the end of the year.
Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, meaning no Democratic support is needed to advance it.
“We know why they’re doing this: They want to stop all challenges to their power grab, but the people will not let it happen,” state Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, said. “The people will not vote to silence themselves on issues like workers’ rights, voters’ rights, and abortion rights. The reckless arrogance of an unchecked GOP supermajority is on full display.”
Republicans seek changes ahead of possible abortion question
The proposal comes as advocates for abortion access debate whether to put a ballot question before voters in 2023 or 2024 to replace Ohio’s six-week ban. No decisions have been made yet, but any constitutional amendment would need to draw a line, somewhere after conception and before birth, to determine when abortion is legal in Ohio.
About 68% of likely Ohio voters said they oppose Ohio’s current ban on abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which typically happens six weeks into a pregnancy, according to a USA TODAY Network Ohio/Suffolk University poll released in September. And 84% supported abortion exceptions for victims of rape or incest, which are not included in state law.
LaRose dismissed speculation about whether his proposed amendment is related to the abortion debate.
“If somebody thinks that their favorite issue is not capable of mustering a 60% vote, then maybe they should think twice about proposing that as a constitutional amendment,” he said.
Source : The Columbus Dispatch