Jul 5, 2023 - Election

Issue 1's impact goes beyond abortion rights

Illustration of a hand placing a ballot in a yellow ripple.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The upcoming August special election has turned into a political Rorschach test.

  • Supporters and opponents of Issue 1, the lone statewide ballot item proposing a higher threshold to amend the Ohio Constitution, see in it what they want to see.

Why it matters: The political agendas surrounding Issue 1 run counter to Republican lawmakers' original justification of protecting the constitution from out-of-state interests.

  • Instead, supporters see the threshold change as valuable toward fending off specific policy proposals from Ohioans ā€” including abortion access and a higher minimum wage.

Catch up quick: Issue 1 would make it harder to amend Ohio's constitution by requiring approval from 60% of voters, up from a simple majority.

  • It's widely reported that the August timing is meant to preempt a pro-abortion rights amendment expected for November's ballot.
  • That's just one of the "far-left ballot proposals" lawmakers hope to make harder to pass, Pickaway County Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), who spearheaded getting Issue 1 on the ballot, told Cleveland.com.

Between the lines: The ripple effects of Issue 1 go beyond reproductive rights and concerns over out-of-state influence.

  • Secretary of State Frank LaRose believes a 60% vote threshold would defend against other unsavory ideas, like convicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder's plan to loosen state term limits.

Zoom in: The Ohio Restaurant Association and Ohio Chamber of Commerce have publicly declared support for Issue 1 to block proposed increases to the state minimum wage.

  • The Chamber is also concerned about a campaign by anti-vaccination groups to prohibit vaccine mandates by employers.
  • The Ohio Farm Bureau wants to circumvent "anti-agricultural initiatives."

The other side: Opposition to Issue 1 also goes beyond fighting for the likely November abortion amendment.

  • The Ohio Environmental Council says Issue 1 would "make it harder for Ohio voters to fight for clean air, land [and] water."

Meanwhile, Wednesday is the deadline for advocates to collect the more than 413,000 valid signatures necessary to put a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights to a statewide vote in November.

What they're saying: Organizers are "on track to hit or possibly exceed our goal," Susan Shaw, spokesperson for Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, tells Axios.

  • They planned to file the signatures Wednesday morning.

What's next: Once the signatures are submitted, the Secretary of State has until July 25 to determine their validity.

Of note: Monday is the deadline to register to vote in August. Early voting begins Tuesday.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to remove a reference to the potential ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, which would not be affected by Issue 1.


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