Voters in Ohio reject change to state's constitution
Issue 1 would have made the state constitution harder to amend.
Delivering a win for abortion rights advocates, Ohio's Issue 1 will fail, The Associated Press projects. The Republican-backed ballot initiative would have increased the threshold to amend the state's constitution, making it more difficult for a measure that would enshrine abortion rights into the state's constitution to pass later this year.
A "yes" vote on Issue 1 meant that constitutional amendments, including the abortion amendment, would have needed 60% support, rather than the existing minimum of 50% plus one. The increased threshold would have been put into place immediately if Issue 1 had passed.
Issue 1 also would have created more strict signature requirements for citizen-led measures to appear on the ballot. Currently, organizers must collect a number of signatures equal to 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election from half of Ohio's 88 counties. If Issue 1 had passed, organizers would have needed signatures from all 88 counties.
Additionally, Issue 1 would have eliminated the 10-day cure period, during which citizens can replace any signatures rejected by the state.
A "no" vote on Issue 1 meant maintaining the existing requirement to amend the state constitution through a ballot initiative with the support of a simple majority.
On Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden issued a statement in support of the voters' decision.
"Today, Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state's constitutional amendment process," his statement began. "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."
Early voter turnout for the special election soared, with more than 696,900 people voting by mail or in person since early voting began on June 23.
Critics denounced Tuesday's election as a scrambled effort by Ohio's GOP to alter election rules to undermine November's abortion ballot measure.
"Let me tell you what this issue has always been about: abortion and reproductive freedom," state Sen. Kent Smith said in a video urging Ohioans to vote against Issue 1. "From the very beginning, Ohio Republicans have been trying to make it harder for Ohioans to reclaim their almost 50-year legal right to be able to make their own reproductive health care decisions. ... The Republicans are trying to rig the rejection of the abortion rights amendment in November, which is why a 'no' vote on Aug. 8 is so critical."
Republicans defended Issue 1 by saying it is an effort to protect Ohio's state constitution from the influence of special interest groups.
"VOTE YES ON ISSUE 1 to: Protect Ohio Values, Preserve the People's Power [and] Defend Ohio's Constitution," tweeted the Ohio Republican Party.
But a high-ranking official in Ohio's GOP reportedly conceded that the party in fact organized around Issue 1 in part to hinder the vote on abortion rights this November, among other motivations.
"This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November," Secretary of State Frank LaRose said at an event in May, according to local TV station WCMH.
LaRose later added to his comments, saying that abortion is "just one of many reasons" for his support of Issue 1. "It's simply about protecting the Constitution from a whole lot of bad ideas," he said.
Following Tuesday's results, LaRose issued a statement on the X social media platform, saying the "devastating impact of this vote" will come "soon enough," hinting at the abortion rights amendment that is set for a vote in November.
"I'm grateful that nearly 1.3 million Ohioans stood with us in this fight, but this is only one battle in a long war. Unfortunately, we were dramatically outspent by dark money billionaires from California to New York, and the giant 'for sale' sign still hangs on Ohio's constitution," LaRose began.
"Ohioans will see the devastating impact of this vote soon enough. The radical activists that opposed Issue 1 are already planning amendments to shut parents out of a child's life-altering medical procedure, force job killing wage mandates on small businesses, prevent law abiding citizens from protecting their families and remove critical protections for our first responders. I've said for months now that there's an assault coming on our constitution, and that hasn't changed. I'm just getting started in the fight to protect Ohio's values," his statement concluded.
Ohio is the only state set to vote on abortion rights this year. The amendment would establish a "fundamental right to reproductive freedom" in Ohio's constitution and provide protections across five categories: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.
In 2022, similar measures resulted in several victories for abortion rights advocates. California, Michigan, and Vermont voters enshrined abortion rights into their state constitutions. Kansas and Kentucky struck down initiatives that would have amended their constitutions to say they do not protect the right to an abortion.