Amending the Ohio Constitution II
Republicans control all three branches of Ohio government. They have been using that control to pursue an ever-more far right, pro-gun, anti-women, anti-education agenda. The only effective avenue Ohioans have had to modify Ohio law in favor of Ohioans has been through citizen-initiated state constitutional amendments. This is a right Ohioans have had since 1912. We saw it used in the two anti-gerrymandering amendments which a substantial majority of Ohio voters supported just a few years ago. We are seeing that process working again as petitions are being signed all over Ohio to put the Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment on the ballot this November. Polling shows that approximately 59% of Ohioans support the amendment.
The Republicans in the General Assembly intend to effectively end the right of Ohioans to make laws that the Republicans do not want. In the closing hours of May 10, the last day to do it, the Ohio House, in a party-line vote, passed Senate Joint Resolution 2 and created a special election on August 8, 2023 for Ohio voters to approve or reject SJR 2.
The details of SJR 2
SJR 2 changes the requirements for putting a citizen-initiated amendment on the ballot. Not satisfied raising that hurdle, SJR 2 also increases the vote necessary to enact any citizen-initiated amendments which reach the ballot. SJR 2 makes no changes to the process for placing amendments proposed by the General Assembly on the ballot or to the vote required to enact such amendments.
Under the law that has been in effect since 1912, to place a citizen-initiated amendment on the ballot requires petition signatures from registered Ohio voters equal to ten percent of the vote cast in the last Governor’s election. Current law also requires that those petitions include signatures from registered voters in at least 44 counties equal to five percent of the vote cast in that county in the last Governor’s election.
SJR 2 would change the second part of the petition signature requirement to require signatures from five percent of the registered voters in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. If 87 counties submit double the required five percent but one county submits only 4.9%, a proposed amendment cannot go on the ballot.
SJR 2 would double the number of petition signatures required in Clermont County. If a citizen-initiated amendment manages to reach the ballot, it would not pass under SJR 2 unless it receives at least 60% yes votes. Current law requires only 50% plus one vote. Under SJR 2, fifty percent plus one yes votes would still pass a constitutional amendment proposed by the General Assembly. No petitions are required for amendments proposed by the Republican dominated General Assembly to be put on the ballot.
Special interest groups claim they are protecting the Ohio Constitution from…special interests
Some Republicans have tried to justify SJR 2 as protecting the Ohio constitution from amendments sought only by special interests. This is a hypocritical argument since the effort to pass SJR 2 is being heavily funded by a right-wing billionaire in Illinois. Business groups are lining up behind SJR 2 to thwart a proposed amendment expected in 2024 to raise Ohio’s minimum wage.
The August special election on SJR 2 is being justified as necessary to impose the 60% requirement for the Right to Reproductive Freedom amendment, expected to be on the ballot this November. In Republican eyes, Ohio women and workers are “special interests” but abortion opponents and big business are not. SJR 2 would not change any rules for amendments initiated by the General Assembly. As was amply demonstrated by the Larry Householder/First Energy bailout scandal, the General Assembly is much more receptive to the wants of special interests than Ohio voters.
The “tyranny of the majority”
Republican Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman recently tried to justify SJR 2 as a means to prevent the “tyranny of the majority.” This should be understood as what it is: an admission that much of the Ohio Republican agenda is not acceptable to the majority of Ohioans. The Republican solution is to impose minority rule.
Low voter turnout for special elections
Ohioans will get the opportunity to vote on SJR 2 on August 8, 2023. After outlawing August special elections earlier this year, Republicans created an August special election just for SJR 2. Why? Because people do not vote in August elections. While statewide August elections are rare, we had one in 2022. Only eight percent of Ohio’s registered voters voted. For Republicans, putting SJR 2 before the voters in a low-turnout election more than justifies the over $ 20 million in tax dollars which will be spent to hold this statewide election.
Ironically but intentionally, SJR 2 will pass if it receives 50% plus one yes votes at in the August 8 special election. Republicans created an August special election just for SJR 2 on the assumption that few Ohioans will vote in August, allowing a small minority of Ohio voters to pass SJR 2 and prevent the majority from amending our state constitution going forward. We must prove that assumption wrong. Ohioans registered to vote by July 10 are eligible to vote on SJR 2. If you are not registered, do it NOW. If you are registered, check your registration record to make sure it is up to date. You can register to vote and check your registration record at the Ohio Secretary of State website: ohiosos.gov/elections/.
Early voting on SJR 2 starts in July – VOTE NO!
Early voting on SJR 2 should start on July 11. Vote early. If you vote by mail, you can apply for an absentee ballot now. Remember that the Republican General Assembly changed the rules this year on what identification you need to show to be allowed to vote. You need a government-issued photo ID, but not all count. The primary forms of acceptable ID are a valid Ohio driver’s license, a valid state-issued ID card, and a valid US passport.
Spread the word – vote no on SJR 2
The importance of defeating SJR 2 cannot be over-emphasized. Ohioans need an avenue to make needed changes in Ohio law that do not align with the far-right agenda. Ohio voters must vote and vote NO this August 8. Talk to your friends and family so they get out and vote NO. The Ohio Democratic Party and the Clermont County Democratic Party will be canvassing to bring out the NO vote. If you are willing to join that effort, call our headquarters at 513-732-2378 and leave us a message. We will call you back. VOTE NO IN AUGUST!
If we work, we can defeat SJR 2. That means that the Reproductive Freedom Amendment can pass in November. If you have not already signed a petition to put Reproductive Freedom on the ballot, do it! Petitions are available for signature at Clermont County Democratic headquarters at 174 East Main Street, Batavia six days a week. Headquarters are open on Mondays from 4:00p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Fridays from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
On a Lighter Note
The Clermont County Democratic Party is having its first fundraising picnic this Saturday, May 20, 2023. The picnic will be from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the American Legion Victor Stier Post 450, 450 Victor Stier Drive, Milford, Ohio. Tickets are $ 35.00 for adults and $ 10 for children 12 and under. You can buy tickets securely online at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/picnic-fundraiser or at the door. Please join us, have some fun, and support our efforts to defeat SJR 2 and to protect women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.