Below is the text of Tuesday’s Heather Cox Richardson newsletter from the early morning hours of August 9 as published on Facebook and mid-morning on Substack. The paragraphs below appeared at the end of a longer column which first examined Biden Administration efforts to protect almost one million acres of land near The Grand Canyon.
The portion of the column which concerns the abortion vote reads as follows:
In Ohio’s important election today, voters rejected the attempt of the Republican-dominated legislature to strengthen minority rule in the state by making it harder for a political majority to change the constitution. High turnout resulted in a vote whose unofficial count was about 57% against and about 43% in favor. Even key Republican districts voted against the measure.
For more than a century, Ohio voters have been able to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot so long as they get a certain number of signatures, and the amendment passes if it gets more than 50% of the vote. But the overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022 sparked a strong backlash across the country. In Ohio, abortion rights activists began to collect signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November, and it was clear they would succeed (in July they submitted 70% more signatures than they needed).
So in May, Ohio Republican legislators set a special election in August to require more signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot and a threshold of 60% of the vote, rather than a simple majority, for the amendment to pass. That’s a very high bar, although, ironically, two amendments that tried to stop political gerrymandering—the practice that has given Republicans a supermajority in the state legislature—passed with about 75% of voters…and the Republicans ignored them.
Only last December the legislature ended most August elections because the traditionally low turnout made it easy for special interests to win by flooding the state with advertising money to energize a small base.
Although the position of secretary of state is supposed to be nonpartisan because the office oversees the state’s elections and appoints every county’s election board, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, said: “This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”
But the implications of making it harder for voters to change laws stretched beyond Ohio. As pro-choice ballot initiatives keep winning, Republican-dominated legislatures across the country are trying to make it harder for citizens to use ballot initiatives. Republican attempts to stop voters from challenging their policies, especially in states where gerrymandering has given them far more seats in the legislature than would accurately represent their support, will echo beyond the issue of abortion to any policy voters would like to challenge.
A former chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Republican Maureen O’Connor, told Sam Levine of The Guardian that the proposed measure “absolutely is minority rule…. If you get 59.9% of a vote that says yes, 40.1% can say no. This is the way it’s gonna be. We can thwart the effort of the majority of Ohioans that vote. And that’s not American.”
Links to other news articles reporting on or analyzing the impact of the Ohio vote can be found here:
- The Tennessee Holler
- Columbus Dispatch, Ohio voters reject Issue 1, scoring win for abortion-rights supporters ahead of November
- USA Today, Controversial Ohio measure that turned into proxy war over abortion rejected by voters
- The Washington Post, Ohio’s Vote Shows Republicans Are Still Losing on Abortion
- The Washington Post, Democrats may embrace abortion rights even more tightly after Ohio win
- The Washington Post, 4 takeaways from rejection of Issue 1 in the Ohio special election
- New York Times, Ohio Voters Reject Constitutional Change Intended to Thwart Abortion Amendment