Ohio voters reject Issue 1 ahead of major abortion-rights vote in November

Lucy Waskiewicz | News Editor

On Tuesday, Ohio voters rejected Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that many viewed as an attempt to hinder November’s upcoming abortion-rights vote.

2023 Ohio Issue 1 was a Republican-supported ballot measure that sought to raise the bar of requirements needed to amend the state constitution. If passed, Issue 1 would have:

  • Increased voter approval needed to pass a proposed constitutional amendment from a simple majority (over 50%) to 60%.
  • Required that citizen-initiated petitions receive signatures from voters in all 88 Ohio counties, instead of the 44 currently required.
  • Removed the 10-day “cure period” for petitions during which they can collect more signatures to make up for any signatures removed as invalid by officials.

With nearly all voting districts reporting by Tuesday night, Issue 1 was projected to have failed by a margin of 57.01% to 42.99%. Montgomery County voted largely against the measure, with approximately 61% “no” votes. Over three million total voters turned out for the special election.

Many praised the results as a preservation of democracy.

“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,” said Democratic Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown in a tweet on Tuesday night.

Issue 1 garnered publicity for its potential impact on an upcoming Ohio vote on abortion in November. Many abortion-rights activists viewed the measure as an attempt to hinder the vote by increasing the number of votes needed to preserve reproductive rights in the state constitution.

Supporters of Issue 1 argued that it would protect Ohioans from special interest outsiders or wealthy groups amending the constitution for their own benefit. However, in a video clip from November 2022, Republican Secretary of State of Ohio Frank LaRose stated that Issue 1 was “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”

Abortion remained at the center of Issue 1 as prominent groups on either side raised millions of dollars in ad campaigns. According to NBC News, Protect Women Ohio, an anti-abortion rights group, committed $9 million to ads supporting Issue 1. On the other side, One Person One Vote, a citizen grassroots coalition, spent $1.1 million in ads asking citizens to vote against Issue 1.

The failure of Issue 1 was considered a major win for Ohio abortion-rights activists, as the November vote will now only require a simple majority to pass.

President Biden commended voters in a statement on Tuesday night.

“Today, Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state’s constitutional amendment process,” he said. 

“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.”

Last year’s overturn of Roe v. Wade triggered an Ohio law banning abortions after the detection of an embryonic heartbeat, which typically occurs around 6 weeks into pregnancy. However, the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” has been blocked by a state judge and is awaiting review by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The proposal heading to Ohio ballots in November seeks to counteract the 6-week law altogether by amending the state constitution to guarantee abortion access for all residents. Titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” it would add a section that protects the right of every individual to make and carry out their own reproductive decisions and prohibits any state interference. 

The proposal qualified for the November ballot in late July, when it was submitted by the group Ohioans United for Reproductive Freedom with nearly 496,000 valid signatures, surpassing the 413,000 requirement.

It will be voted on by Ohio residents on November 7, 2023.

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