In a 4-3 decision that split along party lines, the Ohio Supreme Court's Republican majority ruled that GOP legislators had the authority to schedule an Aug. 8 special election for their constitutional amendment that would make it harder for voters to pass future amendments. Republican lawmakers just months earlier had passed a law ending regular August elections, and the plaintiffs had contended that the party could thus only schedule one by enacting separate legislation―something the GOP reportedly lacked the votes to pass. However, the court rejected their arguments.
The GOP's amendment, which only needs a simple majority in order to go into effect, would raise the threshold to 60% voter approval to pass future amendments. Their measure, which will be identified as Issue 1 on the ballot, would also require voters to gather a certain number of signatures from all 88 counties to qualify their own amendments for the ballot instead of the current number of 44 counties. The existing rules already make it burdensome for progressives to qualify ballot initiatives and pass them in this conservative state, but if voters approve the GOP's amendment, passing such measures could become all but impossible.
“This is 100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a potential candidate for U.S. Senate, said earlier this month as he promoted Issue 1. Indeed, the campaign comes at a time when abortion rights backers are gathering signatures to get their own measure onto the ballot this November, but Republicans made sure the 60% threshold could take effect by then if approved.
The higher signature requirement wouldn't apply until next year, but this isn’t the only potential ballot measure that Ohio Republicans are looking to stop. A state representative told his colleagues last year that this amendment also aims to thwart a 2024 effort to create an independent redistricting commission and end the GOP's existing gerrymanders. LaRose, meanwhile, touted Issue 1 by warning, “Who knows what’s next? Marijuana, or maybe we just get rid of that whole pesky keep and bear arms thing that’s in the Constitution?”
The secretary of state months ago was one of the Republicans who successfully called for ending regular August elections, saying, “August special elections generate chronically low turnout because voters aren’t expecting an election to occur. This is bad news for the civic health of our state.” However, he and his allies are now almost certainly hoping that the low turnout they warned about will make the August electorate disproportionately conservative and help Issue 1 earn the majority it needs. “The left has some really dangerous plans,” LaRose said as he promoted it earlier this month, “and this is one of the ways that we can make sure they’re not successful.”
There have been sooo many hot takes about the 2022 midterms, which is why we're joined on this week's episode of "The Downballot" by Michael Frias and Hillary Anderson of the progressive data firm Catalist to discuss their data-intensive report on what actually happened. They explain how they marry precinct-level election results with detailed voter files to go far beyond what the polls can tell us. Among the findings: Highly competitive races were much more favorable to Democrats than less-contested ones; Republicans paid a "MAGA tax" by nominating extreme candidates; and non-college white women shifted toward Democrats by notable margins compared to 2020.