Ohio voters on Tuesday rejected an attempt to make it harder to amend the state constitution, according to The Associated Press, a significant victory for abortion rights advocates trying to prevent the Republican-controlled state legislature from tightly restricting the practice.
The abortion question, in what is usually a sleepless summer election year, gained national prominence and drew an unprecedented number of Ohio voters to the August election.
Late results showed a loss of 13 percentage points, 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent. The roughly 2.8 million votes cast dwarfed the 1.66 million votes counted in the state’s 2022 primary elections, which captured races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House.
The race was widely seen as a test of Republican efforts across the country to block the use of ballot initiatives and a potential barometer of the political climate heading into the 2024 elections.
Organizations opposed to the proposal called the state legislature’s decisive rejection of a mandated referendum in an attempt to derail a vote on a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights.
“This is about a direct connection to the abortion issue for many voters,” Kelly Hall said. Integrity Program, one of the leaders of the Ohio campaign against the proposal. “But there were many who saw it as a power grab by some legislators.
“Rejecting their initiative means voters know what’s going on when they’re asked to vote their rights.”
The referendum measure would require amendments to the state constitution to be approved by 60 percent of voters, a substantial majority from the current requirement. Republicans initially touted it as an attempt to prevent wealthy special interests from hijacking the reform process for their own gain. Lawmakers voted along party lines in May to put the plan on the ballot.
But from the start, that rationale was thwarted by arguments led by — but hardly limited to — the abortion debate.
The Ohio Legislature last year passed some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, banning the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of those bans, but a successful grassroots campaign this year passed the law to put an abortion-rights amendment on the November ballot.
The amendment would improve the new law by giving women legal control over reproductive decisions, allowing doctors to make medical judgments about the need for an abortion, and restricting the state from regulating abortions only after a fetus is determined to be viable.
Raising the threshold for adopting an amendment to 60 percent of the vote would have thrown the fate of the proposed amendment into greater doubt. In Two surveys, Between 58 percent and 59 percent of respondents supported providing a constitutional right to abortion.
In the 111 years Ohio voters have been empowered to propose and vote on ballot initiatives, only a third of constitutional amendments have passed 60 percent, according to the political data website Ballotpedia.
Other provisions rejected in Tuesday’s vote would have raised barriers to even putting amendments on the ballot. The amendments require supporters to collect a minimum number of signatures from all 88 Ohio counties, instead of the current 44. Another eliminated the ability to correct errors in signatures rejected by state officials.
The legislative move to raise barriers to the new amendments came just weeks before abortion rights advocates delivered petitions to state offices with nearly half a million verified signatures, enough to force a November vote. Tuesday’s election became a proxy for the November election, with abortion access supporters and anti-abortion forces staging a multimillion-dollar preview of the coming battle.
Ballotpedia estimated last week that at least $32.5 million was spent on the war, split roughly equally between the two sides. Eight of the 10 dollars came from donors outside Ohio, according to estimates from Uline Inc., a nationwide packing and shipping company. including $4 million from one donor, Illinois founder Richard Uihlein. Right-wing causes.
Supporters of the Legislature’s proposal also included other out-of-state donors Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a Washington, DC anti-abortion advocacy group contributed nearly $6.4 million. The Concord Fund, one of several companies controlled by Leonard Leo, has overseen campaigns to confirm Republican nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, another donor.
Opponents of the Legislature’s proposal include leading out-of-state donors Sixteen thirty funds, a Washington DC supporter of progressive causes gave $2.64 million; The Tides Foundation, another donor gave $1.88 million to progressive causes; And Karla JurvetsenThe Palo Alto, Calif., physician and Democratic Party donor gave nearly $1 million.
Beyond the war on abortion, some voters seemed simply put off by the tactics the Legislature used to get proposed restrictions before voters. Last December, lawmakers outlawed nearly all August elections, with some voting saying they fell easy prey to special interests with enough money to turn away their supporters.
When it became clear that a vote on the abortion rights amendment would likely take place in November, lawmakers reversed course in May. More than a few critics noted that Tuesday’s vote was, in essence, an election run by special interests with a lot of money.
Anger at the Legislature’s tactics surfaced among some who voted against the motion.
“This is one of the most low-key, low-belt activities I’ve ever seen in politics,” said Jim Nichols, a medicine major at Case Western Reserve University, outside a middle school polling station in Shaker Heights, a liberal Cleveland suburb.
In 2020 Donald J. In Miami Township, a Cincinnati suburb that went strongly for Trump, Tom Baker, 46, said the vote was a last-minute effort by the state legislature that “tilted the playing field in favor of all the aging touchstones.” Conservative people try to force it on generations.
“I don’t like the idea of changing the ways of government, especially for an agenda,” he said.
That kind of skepticism hasn’t weighed on the Legislature’s restrictions with many supporters.
“Evil never sleeps,” said Bill McClellan, 67, as he cast his ballot at a crowded polling station in Strongsville, southwest of Cleveland. “Liberals don’t like that Ohio is a red state, and they keep attacking us.”
Reporting contributed Daniel McGraw And Rachel Richardson.