Washington — Ohio voters resoundingly rejected a proposal known as Issue 1 on Tuesday, which would have made it harder to amend the state constitution. This victory for pro-abortion rights supporters is crucial ahead of a November vote on enshrining reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution.
With 97% of precincts reporting, the proposed constitutional amendment failed to garner majority support, with 56.6% of voters opposing it and 43.4% in favor. Issue 1 aimed to raise the threshold for approving future changes to the state constitution from a simple majority to 60%. The rejection of Issue 1 maintains the existing lower bar that has been in place since 1912.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio celebrated the outcome, stating on social media, “By rejecting Issue 1, Ohioans rejected special interests and demanded that democracy remain where it belongs — in the hands of voters, not the rich and powerful.”
The defeat of Issue 1 paves the way for the approval of a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which seeks to protect abortion rights. According to a July poll, 58% of Ohio voters support enshrining abortion access in the state’s founding document.
Issue 1 was the sole matter on the special election ballot. Despite its broader implications for all future efforts to change the Ohio Constitution, the focus on its impact on the abortion rights ballot measure generated significant interest. Nearly 700,000 Ohioans cast early votes in person or by mail, surpassing the number of early votes in the May 2022 primary election.
President Biden released a statement applauding Ohio voters’ decision, saying, “This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.”
Republican lawmakers in Ohio introduced the push to raise the majority threshold for approving proposed amendments this year after pro-abortion rights positions prevailed in all six states in the 2022 midterm cycle. Supporters of the 60% requirement argued it was essential for safeguarding the Ohio Constitution from well-funded interests outside of the state seeking to promote their social preferences and corporate motives.
However, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, tied the amendment to the abortion rights ballot measure, stating that it aimed to prevent a radical, pro-abortion amendment from being added to the constitution in November.
In Ohio, an abortion ban after embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy, went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. However, a state court blocked the law, and legal proceedings are ongoing. The proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot aims to protect individuals’ right to make their own reproductive decisions, including contraception and abortion, and restrict the state from prohibiting or interfering with this right. It also permits the state to ban abortion after fetal viability.
Ohio is the only state this year where voters considered changes to rules governing constitutional amendments and where the issue of abortion rights will directly appear on the ballot. Other states have pursued similar efforts, although without success. Legislative measures in Arkansas and South Dakota that sought to impose supermajority thresholds for the adoption of constitutional amendments both failed. Republicans in Missouri attempted to replace the simple majority requirement with a 57% marker but did not send the issue to voters for a final decision.