Ohio Voters Reject Constitutional Change Intended to Thwart Abortion Amendment (2023)



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The contest was seen as a test of efforts by Republicans nationwide to curb voters’ use of ballot initiatives.

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Ohio Voters Reject Constitutional Change Intended to Thwart Abortion Amendment (1)

By Michael Wines

(Video) Ohio Voters Reject Constitutional Change Intended to Thwart Abortion Amendment

Ohio voters rejected a bid on Tuesday to make it harder to amend the State Constitution, according to The Associated Press, a significant victory for abortion-rights supporters trying to stop the Republican-controlled State Legislature from severely restricting the procedure.

The abortion question turned what would normally be a sleepy summer election in an off year into a highly visible dogfight that took on national importance and drew an unprecedented number of Ohio voters for an August election.

Late results showed the measure losing by 13 percentage points, 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent. The roughly 2.8 million votes cast dwarfed the 1.66 million ballots counted in the state’s 2022 primary elections, in which races for governor, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House were up for grabs.

The contest was widely seen as a test of Republicans’ efforts nationwide to curb the use of ballot initiatives, and a potential barometer of the political climate going into the 2024 elections.


Organizations that opposed the proposal called the vote a decisive rebuff of the State Legislature, which had ordered the referendum in an attempt to derail a November vote on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee abortion rights.

“It was about a direct connection with the abortion issue for many voters,” said Kelly Hall, the executive director of the Fairness Project, one of the leaders of the Ohio campaign against the proposal. “But there were many others who saw it as a power grab by some legislators.

“The resounding rejection of their attempt means that voters know what’s up when they’re being asked to vote their rights away.”

The ballot measure would have required that amendments to the State Constitution gain approval by 60 percent of voters, up substantially from the current requirement of a simple majority. Republicans initially pitched that as an attempt to keep wealthy special interests from hijacking the amendment process for their own gain. The lawmakers voted largely along party lines in May to put the proposal on the ballot.

(Video) Voters reject Issue 1, keeping threshold to amend Ohio's constitution at simple majority

But from the start, that reasoning was overtaken by weightier arguments, led by — but hardly confined to — the abortion debate.

The Ohio Legislature passed some of the nation’s strictest curbs on abortion last year, banning the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of those curbs, but the law’s passage drove a successful grass-roots campaign this year to place an abortion-rights amendment on the November ballot.

That amendment would upend the new law by giving women legal control over reproductive decisions, allowing doctors to make medical judgments on the need for abortions, and restricting the state to regulating abortions only after a fetus is judged viable.

Raising the threshold for adopting an amendment to 60 percent of votes would have put the fate of the proposed amendment in greater doubt. In two polls, 58 percent and 59 percent of respondents supported granting a constitutional right to abortion access.


In the 111 years that Ohio voters have had the power to propose and vote on ballot initiatives, only about a third of constitutional amendments managed to exceed 60 percent, according to the political data website Ballotpedia.

Other provisions also rejected in the Tuesday referendum would have raised hurdles even to putting amendments on the ballot. One required backers of amendments to gather a minimum number of signatures from all 88 Ohio counties instead of the current 44 counties. Another eliminated their ability to correct errors in signatures that were rejected by state officials.

The Legislature’s move to raise barriers to new amendments came weeks before abortion rights advocates delivered petitions with roughly a half million verified signatures to state offices, more than enough to force the November vote. Tuesday’s election had become something of a proxy for the November election, with supporters of abortion access and anti-abortion forces waging a multimillion-dollar preview of the coming battle.

Ballotpedia estimated last week that at least $32.5 million had been spent on the battle, split roughly equally between the two sides. Eight in 10 dollars came from donors outside Ohio, that estimate said, including $4 million from a single donor, Richard Uihlein, the Illinois founder of a nationwide packing and shipping company, Uline Inc., who is one of the country’s most prolific patrons of right-wing causes.


(Video) Ohio voters reject Issue 1 in major victory for abortion rights backers

Other out-of-state donors to supporters of the legislature’s proposal included Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a Washington, D.C. anti-abortion advocacy group that contributed nearly $6.4 million. The Concord Fund, one of several organizations controlled by Leonard Leo, who has overseen campaigns to confirm Republican nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, was another donor.

The leading out-of-state donors to opponents of the Legislature’s proposal included the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington D.C. supporter of progressive causes that gave $2.64 million; the Tides Foundation, another donor to progressive causes that gave $1.88 million; and Karla Jurvetson, a Palo Alto, Calif., doctor and Democratic Party donor who gave nearly $1 million.

Beyond the battle over abortion, it appeared that some voters were simply put off by the tactics the Legislature used to get the proposed restrictions before voters. Just last December, lawmakers outlawed almost all August elections, saying so few people voted in them that they had become easy prey for special interests with enough money to turn out their supporters.

The lawmakers reversed course in May when it became clear that a vote on an abortion rights amendment was likely in November. More than a few critics noted that Tuesday’s referendum was, in essence, an election pushed by special interests with an abundance of money.


Among some who voted against the proposal, the anger over the Legislature’s tactics was evident.

“This is one of the lowest, below-the-belt actions I’ve seen in politics ever,” Jim Nicholas, a medicine major at Case Western Reserve University, said outside a polling place at a middle school in Shaker Heights, a doggedly liberal Cleveland suburb.

In Miami Township, a Cincinnati suburb that went strongly for Donald J. Trump in 2020, Tom Baker, 46, called the referendum a last-minute attempt by the State Legislature to tilt the playing field in favor of “all of the touchstones the aging conservative population is trying to force on generations.”

“I don’t like the idea of changing the mechanisms of government,” he said, “especially for an agenda.”

That kind of skepticism carried no weight with many backers of the Legislature’s restrictions.

“Evil never sleeps,” said Bill McClellan, 67, as he cast a ballot at a crowded polling place in Strongsville, on Cleveland’s southwest side. “The liberals don’t like that Ohio is a red state, and they continue to attack us.”

Reporting was contributed by Daniel McGraw and Rachel Richardson.

(Video) Ohio Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Republican Attempt Stop Abortion Rights in Special Election

Michael Wines writes about voting and other election-related issues. Since joining The Times in 1988, he has covered the Justice Department, the White House, Congress, Russia, southern Africa, China and various other topics. More about Michael Wines

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(Video) Ohio special election and what it could mean for abortion access


What is the Article 1 Section 22 of the Ohio Amendment? ›

The Amendment would amend Article I of the Ohio Constitution by adding Section 22, titled "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety."

What is the 26th Amendment simplified? ›

Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

What is Article 16 of the Ohio Constitution? ›

§16 All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his land, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and shall have justice administered without denial or delay. Suits may be brought against the state, in such courts and in such manner, as may be provided by law.

What did the Ohio Constitution change in 1851? ›

— The Ohio Constitution acts within the U.S. Constitution. — The 1851 Ohio Constitution solved 3 major problems: created district courts, instituted debt limitations, and major executive officials to be elected by the people instead of appointed by the legislative branch.

What is Article 1 19a of the Ohio Constitution? ›

Article I, Section 19a | Damages for wrongful death

The amount of damages recoverable by civil action in the courts for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another, shall not be limited by law.

What is Article 1 16 of the Ohio Constitution? ›

Article I, Section 16 | Redress for injury; Due process

All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his land, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and shall have justice administered without denial or delay.

What does Amendment 21 say? ›


The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

What does the 12th Amendment say? ›

The Twelfth Amendment requires a person to receive a majority of the electoral votes for vice president for that person to be elected vice president by the Electoral College. If no candidate for vice president has a majority of the total votes, the Senate, with each senator having one vote, chooses the vice president.

What does the 27th Amendment do? ›

Amendment 27

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

What is Article 3 of the Ohio constitution? ›

The supreme executive power of this state shall be vested in the governor. He may require information, in writing, from the officers in the executive department, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices; and shall see that the laws are faithfully executed.

What is Article 12 of Ohio constitution? ›

Article XII | Finance and Taxation. No poll tax shall ever be levied in this state, or service required, which may be commuted in money or other thing of value.

What is Article 18 of the Ohio constitution? ›

Article XVIII | Municipal Corporations. Municipal corporations are hereby classified into cities and villages. All such corporations having a population of five thousand or over shall be cities; all others shall be villages. The method of transition from one class to the other shall be regulated by law.

What was Ohio no longer allowed to do after the 1851 Constitution? ›

The original 1802 constitution made the legislature the most powerful branch of the state government. It appointed most executive branch officers and judges, and the governor lacked a veto over its decisions. The 1851 constitution eliminated this appointment power, although Ohio governors lacked a veto until 1903.

What is the Ohio Constitution of 1802 and 1851? ›

Changes to the 1802 Constitution

In the end, the 1851 constitution changed several aspects of the older constitution. The Ohio General Assembly was still the dominant branch of government, but its powers were slightly reduced, with more power given directly to the people.

What were the 1912 amendments to the Ohio Constitution? ›

In 1912, a following convention submitted a number of amendments to the voters of Ohio. These amendments expanded Ohio's bill of rights, gave voters the powers of initiative and referendum and established a minimum wage and workers' compensation system.

What is the 22nd amendment Article 1? ›

Section 1 Limit

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

What is the 1 22 amendment? ›

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014 on the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the country was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 19, 2014. This Bill replaces an earlier Bill introduced in 2011 by the former Government on the same subject which had since lapsed.

What is the general purpose of amendment 22? ›

The amendment prohibits anyone who has been elected president twice from being elected again. Under the amendment, someone who fills an unexpired presidential term lasting more than two years is also prohibited from being elected president more than once.

What is Article 2 Section 22 of the Ohio Constitution? ›

Article II, Section 22 | Appropriations

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, except in pursuance of a specific appropriation, made by law; and no appropriation shall be made for a longer period than two years.


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