Ohio Issue 1: Voters go to the polls in special election with major implications for abortion rights

Washington — Voters in Ohio are at the polls Tuesday to decide whether to approve a measure known as Issue 1 that seeks to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution at the ballot box, and could have ramifications for a high-stakes plan to protect abortion access that voters will consider in November.

Issue 1 presents a simple question: whether to raise the threshold required to amend the Ohio Constitution through the ballot box. Under the proposal, constitutional amendments would require the support of 60% of voters, rather than the simple majority currently needed. If approved, it would make it more difficult to amend the state constitution. A vote for “yes” supports the change, while a “no” vote opposes it.

Issue 1 is the only matter on the ballot in Tuesday’s special election, and polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET. 

While the amendment will affect all future efforts to change the Ohio Constitution, the impact on the abortion rights ballot measure in particular sparked a flood of interest.

Nearly 700,000 Ohioans voted early, either in-person or by mail, surpassing the amount of early votes cast in the May 2022 primary election.

Ohio Republican lawmakers began their push to raise the bar for approving proposed amendments this spring, after the pro-abortion rights position won in all six states where the issue was directly put to voters in the 2022 midterm cycle. As a joint resolution to set the Aug. 8 special election moved through the state legislature, eventually passing in May, reproductive rights advocates were collecting the signatures needed to land the abortion access measure on the fall general election ballot. 

A volunteer helps voters cast their ballots during a special election for Issue 1 in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 8, 2023.
A volunteer helps voters cast their ballots during a special election for Issue 1 in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 8, 2023.


GOP state lawmakers have touted the 60%-majority threshold as crucial for protecting the Ohio Constitution from well-funded, out-of-state interests that seek to “enshrine their social preferences and corporate motives” in the document.

But Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, an ardent supporter of Issue 1 who is running for the U.S. Senate, linked the amendment to the abortion rights ballot measure in May.

“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,” LaRose, a Republican, said during a Lincoln Day event in Seneca County.

Abortion rights in Ohio

In Ohio, a ban on abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy, went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. But a state court blocked the six-week law, and legal proceedings are continuing.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which has qualified for the November ballot, would protect the right of individuals to make their own reproductive decisions, including on contraception and abortion. It would forbid the state from prohibiting or interfering with the “voluntary exercise of this right.”

The amendment would allow the state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability, which it defines as “the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures.”

Ohio’s Issue 1 would not only raise the threshold for passing state constitutional amendments, but also elevate the standard to place a citizen-initiated amendment on the ballot. The amendment required that any petition filed after Jan. 1 be signed by at least 5% of the electors of each of Ohio’s 88 counties, based on the total number of votes cast in the last governor’s race.

Ohio is the only state this year where voters weighed changes to the rules governing proposed constitutional amendments — and where the issue of abortion rights will directly appear on the ballot. But other states have mounted similar efforts, albeit unsuccessfully.

In Arkansas and South Dakota, legislative measures that would’ve imposed the supermajority threshold for the adoption of constitutional amendments both failed. Republicans in Missouri’s legislature attempted earlier this year to replace its simple majority bar with a 57% marker, but failed to send the issue to voters for the final word. Ohio Issue 1: Voters go to the polls in special election with major implications for abortion rights

Related Articles

Back to top button