Ohio voters have firmly spoken, decisively rejecting Issue 1 in a special election held on August 8, 2023. This rejection has broader implications, particularly for the state’s constitutional amendment process and the hotly debated topic of abortion rights.
Overview of Issue 1
Issue 1 was a significant proposal aimed at altering the way the Ohio Constitution could be amended. It sought to raise the approval threshold for future changes to the state constitution through ballot measures from a simple majority to 60%. Additionally, it aimed to increase the standards for placing citizen-initiated amendments on the ballot, requiring petitions to be signed by at least 5% of the electors in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Results and Implications
The final results of the election indicated a rejection of Issue 1, with 57.01% voting against and 42.99% voting in favor.
The failure of Issue 1 is seen as a significant win for pro-abortion rights advocates. With the existing lower bar for amending the constitution still in place, the way has been paved for a proposed constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights, which is slated for the November ballot. This outcome keeps the requirement that an amendment regarding abortion rights will only need to achieve a 50% plus one margin for approval in the upcoming November vote.
The special election saw substantial voter engagement, with nearly 700,000 Ohioans voting early either in-person or by mail, surpassing previous early votes in recent elections. Despite earlier decisions to eliminate most August special elections due to low turnout and high costs, the election witnessed a higher-than-expected turnout.
President Biden commented on the outcome, characterizing it as a rejection of attempts to weaken voters’ voices and undermine women’s healthcare decisions. Supporters of the failed Issue 1 attributed its loss to spending from external interests, while others saw it as a way to protect the Ohio Constitution from out-of-state interests.
The rejection of Issue 1 by Ohio voters is a momentous decision that has resonated across different facets of the state’s governance and law. It reaffirms Ohioans’ stance on retaining their voice in amending the state’s constitution, a process that has remained unchanged since 1912. More pressingly, it sets the stage for a potential constitutional protection of abortion rights in November, representing a critical juncture in the national discourse on reproductive rights.