Ohio Republicans are so terrified that voters will vote for a referendum to add an abortion rights amendment to the state constitution that they are going to change a century-old rule to keep the referendum from actually passing.
Proponents of abortion rights in Ohio have drawn up a proposed constitutional amendment patterned on the one approved in Michigan. They are in the process of gathering enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. An Ohio bill banning abortions after six weeks has been blocked in the courts.
If they succeed, they will need the support of 50 percent of voters plus one to make it part of the state constitution. Ohio has recently moved toward the Republicans, but the majority of public opinion appears to favor abortion rights, as is the case nationwide. Still, it is doubtful the abortion ballot measure could achieve a three-fifths majority.
Shortly after last November, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Rep. Brian Stewart, both Republicans, called for raising the threshold for passage of proposed amendments to the constitution to 60 percent. LaRose did not talk about the issue during his reelection campaign. Nonetheless, he and other proponents recommended the state legislature move swiftly to enact the change during a lame-duck session.
LaRose said the proposal was designed “to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued abuse by special interests and out-of-state activists.” Later, Stewart said explicitly in a letter to fellow Republicans in the state House that the reason for the new proposal was because the left was trying to do “an end run around us” to put abortion rights into the state constitution and to give “unelected liberals” and allies on the state Supreme Court power to draw legislative districts.
That lame-duck session effort failed. But it has come back during the current legislative session in an even more restrictive fashion. Not only would the measure raise the threshold for passage to a three-fifths majority, it also would put a much heavier burden on the process of gathering signatures to qualify citizen amendments for the ballot.
The current rule is to gather signatures from at least 5 percent of registered voters in 44 counties. The new measure would extend that to all 88 counties in Ohio and would eliminate the curing period, or the time given to correct for faulty signatures. LaRose opposed these signature-related changes, saying they could disadvantage “truly citizen groups” using largely volunteer labor and give an advantage to corporate or other special interests who could afford paid signature gatherers. (The signature gathering changes would not take effect until next year so would not apply to the proposed reproductive rights amendment.)
There is one other wrinkle in all this. Ohio recently did away with its August elections (except in a few cases) on the grounds that they were costly and generally resulted in low turnout. Having failed to enact the rules change measure in the lame-duck session late last year, the first opportunity to take this to the voters would be next November, in which case it would not apply to the reproductive rights amendment.
So now, proponents of raising the threshold for passage of constitutional amendments also want to authorize an August election. State Senate President Matt Huffman (R) said recently that spending $20 million on an August election is worth the money “if we save 30,000 lives as a result.” The Ohio Health Department reported that there were less than 21,820 abortions performed in the state in 2021.
So yes, Ohio Republicans will do anything to keep their corrupt supermajority in power so that they can pass any law they want to, and they will do whatever it takes to do it. I remind you that the most corrupt state GOP party in America continues to ignore all rulings from Ohio's state Supreme Court concerning the GOP's unconstitutional gerrymander, you know, the one currently giving them unchecked power in the state.
Ohio Republicans will continue to make new rules and move the goalposts until nobody can ever challenge their power again, and several other state GOP legislatures will follow suit. One-party rule across the country, localized theocratic white supremacist fascism, with tens of millions given little to no voice, recourse, and no rights.
They aren't going to stop until we stop them.