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Ohio Republicans and lobbyists don’t trust a majority of voters but want us to rig the game for them




A voter at a voting booth during the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)

Issue 1 is about powerful Republican politicians and lobbyists not trusting Ohioans. They don’t want a majority of voters to do anything they don’t like. They don’t want a majority of voters to be able to hold them accountable. And that is the only reason they are trying to rig the game with Issue 1 on Aug. 8.

They are trying to rig the game against voters by asking a majority of Ohio voters to rig the game for them against ourselves. They are asking us to change the rules so future amendments need 60% voter approval for passage.

More than that, Issue 1 would make it nearly impossible for citizen groups to propose any initiatives ever again, by changing signature requirements from 44 to all 88 counties, some of which only have a fraction of a percent of Ohio’s population.

So on Issue 1, they trust a majority of voters, but after this, nothing else. That’s what they’re saying. Up until Aug. 8, a majority of Ohio voters are full of wisdom. After that, it’s the cold shoulder for the 50-59 percenters. Ohio voters have to cover a 20-point spread.

As Bob Taft said, if they really believed this would protect the Ohio Constitution they would be requiring 60% for Issue 1 to pass.

Instead, they’re desperately using every fear tactic in the book to try to scare Ohio voters into going into the voting booth on Aug. 8 and stripping ourselves of our own power.

But the truth is, if Issue 1 is voted down, everything stays as it has been for 111 years, with a majority of Ohio voters deciding what happens with our Ohio Constitution.

Ohio citizens have proposed 71 amendments and voters have passed 19. That’s a 27% passage rate. Ohio voters are responsible.

Ohio Republican lawmakers and lobbyists are not. Captured by radical special interests, charter school and payday lending grifters, and corrupt utilities, Ohio Republicans in charge of state government have overseen scandal after scandal this past decade, costing Ohioans billions of dollars while raking in millions for themselves in campaign donations. They’re selling us all out for pennies on the dollar.

Meanwhile, they have kicked third parties off the ballot, gerrymandered our maps against the constitution, enacted some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, and imposed a radical abortion ban that: forces 10-year-old rape victims to flee the state for care; forces cancer patients to be denied abortions while also being denied cancer treatment because they’re pregnant; and forces mothers carrying a fetus with severe abnormalities to give birth only to watch it quickly die.

This extremist abortion ban that caused all of these heartbreaking scenarios for a few months in Ohio after the Dobbs decision has been temporarily blocked by a Hamilton County court pending litigation.

In a debate Tuesday night however, the chief cheerleaders for the historic Issue 1 attack on Ohio voters — our own chief elections officer, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and an anti-abortion lobbyist named Mike Gonidakis — made it sound as though if a majority of voters strikes down Issue 1 and approves a November abortion rights proposal, Ohio will descend into a hellish madhouse of Q-Anon paranoias come to life.

And they want us to believe this while Ohio Republicans currently enjoy total unchecked power over our state’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

What would Ohio actually look like if Issue 1 goes down and the abortion rights amendment passes?

Pretty much exactly how it looks right now.

With right-wing Ohio Republicans controlling the Ohio Supreme Court after the forced-retirement of swing-vote Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, it’s hard to say precisely how they might interpret the November amendment, if it passes and comes before them, but we can game it out.

They already have a case before them over Ohio’s extreme abortion ban that has no exceptions for rape or incest, so such an abortion rights amendment would, in any rational world, be a game-changer on that.

It seems reasonable to suspect that law would stay blocked or appealed to federal court if the state high court Republicans decided to flout the new amendment. Ohio’s current law with abortion legal until 22 weeks gestation could well be found to meet the standards in the amendment.

The November amendment does say “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability,” except if necessary to save the mother’s life, and viability is right around 23 weeks.

It’s ridiculous to imagine Ohio’s right-wing Republican Supreme Court would somehow have a more liberal interpretation than that, much less allow any of the other wild-eyed claims supporters of Issue 1 are making.

So odds on, where would it all leave us? Basically the status quo: Abortion is legal and protected in Ohio, up to a point.

And that’s what makes all the hysterical, hyperbolic, hypocritical fear-mongering about some nightmarish dark future that LaRose and Gonidakis tried to perform Tuesday night pretty silly.

Nothing would happen to parental consent, just like nothing happened to parental consent in Michigan when they passed a similar amendment last year. Things stay essentially how they are right now in Ohio. Other issues come and a majority decides, as we have for more than 100 years.

But on that note, here is what they truly fear: further anti-gerrymandering reform kicking politicians out of the redistricting process and bringing representative maps with proportional safe seats and maximized competitive seats. That would make a corrupt, misrepresentative state government actually accountable and representative.

And that’s what this is all about. It’s politicians and lobbyists trying to swindle voters so they can have everything, however they want it, and keep misrepresenting a majority of Ohioans without any accountability.

In the end, Issue 1 is a radical big government power play by extremist lobbyists and politicians to protect their own control over Ohio government, and to rob a majority of voters of our own ultimate authority to put them in check.

They work for us, but with Issue 1, they’re asking to rule us. With Issue 1, they want us to crown them.

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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