COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Last year, lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse passed a law to do away with recurring August special elections; now, some of those same lawmakers are looking at bringing them back for “certain purposes.”
“I certainly wouldn’t be for it,” Speaker of the House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said.
“You’re talking about two different kinds of things: recurring, always August elections or special elections which are created with special purposes,” Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said.
Huffman said he wants to bring back special August elections so Ohioans can vote on HJR1, a proposal that would make it more difficult to both put a constitutional amendment on a ballot and pass one.
Now, Republican senators are moving forward with Senate Bill 92 to “allow special election to be held in August for certain purposes.” Huffman said he hopes to pass SB 92 to the House by mid-April, and out of the Statehouse by May 8, so there’s ample time for the Boards of Elections to prepare for an August election.
“We did a lot of this last year, we’ve been talking about it, some of us for a few years, but certainly in this context, really the last six to eight months,” Huffman said. “I think it’s important with recreational marijuana looming and with this abortion issue looming that we set the ground rule for all of these things and we do it sooner rather than later.”
But lawmakers against bringing August elections back said they typically bring in low voter turnout and cost taxpayers about $20 million.
“People will turn out for this,” Huffman said. “I think it’s an important issue.”
“We voted not to have those anymore just a few months ago,” Stephens said. “The county officials I’ve talked to are not interested in having it. I’m frankly not interested in having an election in August. It’s a cost to the taxpayer.”
This also comes as voters will likely be voting on a constitutional amendment to protect the right to abortion in November.
“This is not just for the abortion amendment; this is something that has been percolating for a long time,” Huffman said. “Certainly, it’s part of the conversation with the timing, there’s no question about that.”
But some groups and lawmakers against HJR1 said putting it on the August ballot sends a clear message that the issue is getting rushed to try and block the abortion amendment from passing. Huffman maintains that putting HJR1 on the August ballot is not directly to block the abortion amendment, but said the added election would be worth the cost.
“If we save 30,000 lives as a result of spending $20 million, I think that’s a great thing,” Huffman said.
As HJR1 moves through the House, companion SJR2 was introduced in the Senate last week. SJR2 has its first hearing on Tuesday and HJR1 will not have another hearing this week.