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An American flag waves in the breeze next to a sign directing Ohioans to vote inside Tharp Sixth Grade School, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Hilliard, Ohio. (AP Photo/Samantha Hendrickson)

'Sad Day for Ohio' as Voters Reject Constitutional Amendment Measure, Pro-Choice Lobby Celebrates

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Voters in Ohio Tuesday strongly rejected a measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the state's Constitution. Supporters of liberalized abortion laws celebrated, while one pro-life group called it "a sad day for Ohio."

President Joe Biden praised the result as a victory for women because it leaves the door open to enshrine abortion in the Ohio Constitution this November.

Issue 1 is a ballot measure that would have made it harder to approve any amendment to the Buckeye State's Constitution by raising the current requirement from a simple majority of voters to 60% of ballots cast.

Opponents of Issue 1 charged the special election was aimed at a November referendum on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee abortion access in Ohio.

Meanwhile, a broad bipartisan coalition opposed Issue 1 for other reasons. Former Ohio governors and attorneys general of both parties had come out against the constitutional change. If passed it would reverse 111 years of state tradition that has the potential to affect future citizen-led ballot efforts.

Ohio is only one of 18 states that allow for citizen-petition amendments to the state Constitution, according to The Washington Examiner. But only half of those states allow a mere 50% majority to certify an amendment.

Voters turned out in massive numbers for the Issue 1 special election. During the early voting period, which ended Sunday, the number of advance ballots cast hit nearly 700,000, more than double the early vote during primary elections in 2018 and 2022, when high-profile U.S. Senate and governor races were on the ballot.

slider img 2Abortion is at the epicenter of the fight as Ohio and all other U.S. states have been given control of their own abortion policies following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last summer. Ohio's ban on most abortions had been placed on hold under Roe and then allowed to take effect briefly after the court overturned it. Since then, it has been frozen again while a challenge alleging it violates the Ohio Constitution plays out in the judicial system. 

Out-of-state money has poured into both sides in the contest over the 60% threshold, even as both supporters and opponents say one of their main goals is to keep special interests from having more influence over state policy than average Ohioans. 

The campaign in favor of Issue 1, Protect Our Constitution, has told voters that raising the threshold will keep deep-pocketed interest groups from pushing redistricting, gun control, and minimum wage policies in Ohio. It has spent $2.5 million on advertising, according to The Columbus Dispatch

One Person One Vote, the opposition campaign, argues that raising the threshold for passing future amendments would prioritize the interests of Ohio's increasingly conservative GOP supermajority at the statehouse over those of everyday voters. It has spent roughly $12.4 million on TV, cable, and radio advertising, The Dispatch reported. 

The pro-life group Protect Women Ohio, the campaign against the fall abortion question that will appear on the state's ballot in November, has spent roughly $7.1 million in advertising to support Issue 1, according to the outlet.  

The proposed abortion amendment that will be voted on in November reads:

  • "Every individual has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion."
  • "The State shall not directly or indirectly burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual's voluntary exercise of this right or a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual's health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care."

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood back the November pro-abortion amendment.

On the pro-life side, Beth Vanderkooi, executive director for Greater Columbus Right to Life told CBN News in May, "This amendment is anti-parent, it is anti-life, and it is far too extreme."

Tuesday's vote on State Issue 1 needed a simple majority to pass and would have taken effect immediately. But it failed to pass, so the November ballot measure aimed at enshrining abortion access in the Ohio Constitution will also only need a basic majority to change the state constitution. 

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