ELECTIONS 2023 and 2024

The Good News

The headline good news from last week’s election is that Ohio voters passed State Issue 1, the Reproductive Freedom Amendment to the Ohio Constitution. Unofficial statewide results show that just under 57% of Ohio voters voted yes on Issue 1. Unofficially, Issue 1 lost in Clermont County by 2,654 votes out of 74,216 votes cast.  Sadly, it appears that many in our county fell for the lies being told by the dark forces opposed to the individual rights guaranteed by Issue 1.  However, the fact that the vote was close contributed to the statewide win. The dark forces knew they could not win in Ohio’s urban counties, and they did not. To defeat individual rights, those opposing Issue 1 needed to win big in places like Clermont County. They did not.

Every Ohioan owes a debt of gratitude to the many people who worked very hard to get Issue 1 on the ballot and to get Issue 1 passed. Similarly, we owe thanks again to everyone who helped defeat the August Issue 1 which, if passed, would not have permitted November Issue 1 to pass. Ohio voters, including a substantial number in Clermont County, want to preserve individuals’ control of their healthcare rather than have that dictated by an artificial majority of politicians in Columbus.

The Bad News

Like spoiled children, Ohio Republicans have reacted petulantly to not getting their way on Issue 1. “No amendment can overturn the God given rights with which we were born”, said State Representative Beth Lear (R – Galena). The day after the election, twenty-seven Ohio House Republicans issued a letter on state government stationary calling Issue 1 “vague, intentionally deceptive,” and said that “[w]e were elected to protect the most vulnerable in our state, and we will continue that work.”

The Republican Representatives’ letter also states that “[t]he initiative failed to mention a single, specific law.” This last “point” was echoed by individual Republicans. State Representative Bill Dean (R-Xenia) told the media “Issue 1 doesn’t repeal a single Ohio law, in fact, it doesn’t even mention one.” This indicates one avenue of Republican attack against the expressed will of Ohio voters and reflects a basic misunderstanding of law.

Issue 1 effected an amendment to the Ohio Constitution. Our law is hierarchical, and the Constitution takes precedence over statutes. In theory at least, laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor cannot be enforced if they violate a provision of the Constitution. Consequently, the passage of Issue 1 means that statutes restricting or banning abortions and the other medical care covered by Issue 1 in ways not allowed by Issue 1 remain on the books, but the Constitution bars any arm of state government from enforcing them.

Issue 1 did not mention any specific statute because it affords Ohioans protection against all laws purporting to deny individual rights over decisions related to reproduction. Will the current Republican majority on our state supreme court apply this basic rule of law? That remains to be seen.

The Republicans in state government apparently do not intend to take the chance that the Ohio Supreme Court will follow the law. Four Republican state representatives announced last week that they will be introducing legislation to prevent Ohio courts from enforcing this part of the Ohio Constitution.

“To prevent mischief by pro-abortion courts with Issue 1, Ohio legislators will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative.”  abc.news.go/Health/wireStory/republican-action-seek-courts-interpreting-ohio-new-abortion-104805496. Of course, Issue 1 is no longer a ballot initiative. It is now part of the Ohio Constitution, the fundamental law of Ohio.

Ohio voters also passed State Issue 2, legalizing recreational growing, possession, and use of marijuana. Issue 2 passed statewide by 57% to 43% in the unofficial results and passed in Clermont County by the same margin. Because Issue 2 effects a change in Ohio statutory law, it can be repealed by the General Assembly. Even before November 7, Republican leaders in the General Assembly and individual Republican legislators promised that the General Assembly will repeal Issue 2.

Undoubtedly, there are some Republicans in state government who genuinely disagree with Issues 1 and 2 on their merits. However, the Republican response to passage of Issues 1 and 2 appears to be part of a larger strategy.

Recall that last year Ohio Republicans drew General Assembly and Congressional districts in violation of amendments Ohio voters approved a few years ago, districts which the Ohio Supreme Court expressly held to be in violation of our state constitution. The Ohio Supreme Court had a different Chief Justice last year who was forced into retirement. She obeyed the Ohio Constitution.

Ohio Republicans are sending the people of Ohio a clear message: “You don’t run your state, we do. You’re wasting your time passing things we don’t like. We have the power, and we’ll make sure they have no effect.” Sadly, in the short term at least, they may be correct.

The Necessary Action

The Republican contempt for Ohio voters should disgust every Ohioan. However, disgust is not enough. Republicans must be denied the power to try to override the will of Ohio voters. There are three ways to do this.

Petitions will soon be circulating to amend the Ohio Constitution again to try to end Republican gerrymandering. In general, this amendment would abolish the current Redistricting Commission, the majority of which are Republican elected officials. Instead, General Assembly and Congressional districts would be drawn by a truly bipartisan body that includes no elected or party officials. The idea is to have our legislative districts drawn by people who do not have a direct, personal interest in drawing those districts to dictate a particular outcome in General Assembly and Congressional elections. Sign this petition when you have the opportunity. When this issue appears on the November 2024 ballot, vote yes.

Because the proposed amendment on redistricting is expected to be on the ballot next November, it cannot change the districts in which we will elect our representatives to the General Assembly and Congress next November.

Currently, the state house and senate seats and the U.S. House seat covering Clermont County are all held by right-wing Republicans, Republicans who think being legislators gives them a right to impose their agenda whether or not Ohio’s citizens agree. We need people to step up and run for these very important offices. Clermont County cannot put different people in office if different people do not run for office.

The deadline to file to be a candidate in the November 2024 election is December 20, 2023, less than a month away. The Clermont County Democratic Party can and will help get you on the ballot. Now, more than ever, we need people in Columbus and Washington who will not say “up yours” to Ohio voters.

Finally, Ohio will elect three justices to the Ohio Supreme Court next November. Two of the three Democrats on the court are running for re-election: Justice Melody Stewart and Justice Micheal Donnelly. Judge Lisa Forbes of the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals is running for the third seat. We must get Justices Stewart and Donnelly re-elected and we must elect Judge Forbes to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Stay safe.  Please step up for the people of Ohio.