COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio House passed a controversial measure Wednesday to ask voters in an August election whether to make it harder to amend the state constitution – but not before protesters chanting “one person, one vote” were ousted from the room.

In a 62-37 vote split largely down party lines, the House gave its last-minute stamp of approval to Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would – if passed by Ohio voters in an Aug. 8 special election – require 60% of voter support to enact a constitutional amendment, as opposed to the existing simple majority threshold of 50% plus one vote.

Less than three hours after the vote, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose signed the resolution.

In addition to the 60%-40% change, the resolution would also require signatures gathered from all 88 counties in Ohio – as opposed to the existing 44-county rule – to place an initiative on the ballot. It also eliminates a 10-day cure period awarded to ballot initiative authors who initially fail to collect the required number of signatures.

The House’s approval came after hundreds of supporters and opponents of the measure gathered in the halls of the Statehouse in preparation for the vote. After cries from protesters interrupted lawmakers’ consideration of the bill, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) ordered their removal.

Although lawmakers removed the measure’s language providing for an Aug. 8 election in a largely theatrical move on Tuesday, representatives narrowly approved in a 56-43 vote to place it back in. A handful of Republicans — who voted in December to eliminate most August elections — joined Democrats in voting against the amendment.

Placing the measure on an August ballot allows the legislature’s Republican supermajority to get ahead of the November election, where the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom plan to ask voters whether to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

Proponents of the measure – whose original iteration was introduced by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) and LaRose last fall – say boosting the threshold will prevent out-of-state and special interests, like casinos and marijuana legalization groups, from permanently altering the state constitution.

“Attempting to amend Ohio’s Constitution is a lucrative business, and monied interests see Ohio as an easy mark,” Stewart said Wednesday. “Enough’s enough.”

Nearly 250 advocacy groups in the Buckeye State, including Ohio’s League of Women Voters, AFL-CIO and Fraternal Order of Police, have described the 60% initiative as an “unnecessary, unfair and undemocratic” power grab that will benefit only the wealthiest of interest groups.

“This body is seeking to nullify the one tool our predecessors gave to us to demand better from an unresponsive, unaccountable and uncontrollable legislature,” Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake) said Wednesday.

Five House Republicans, Reps. Jamie Callender (R-Concord), Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), Jeff LaRe (Violet Township) and Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), split with their party and voted against the resolution.

Since the Ohio Senate already greenlit the measure and its associated August election in mid-April, SJR2 was forwarded to LaRose, which he approved before the midnight Wednesday deadline. Election officials must begin preparations to administer an August special election.

According to the directive signed by LaRose, the state will bear the costs for the election.

“While the General Assembly’s order will require the state to provide additional resources to
the counties, I have been assured by legislative leaders that those funding needs will be met,” LaRose wrote in the directive, which can be read below.

The directive states that the language on the ballot will be issued no later than May 30.

LaRose wrote in a tweet that what is being asked from the resolution is no different than what other states already do.

“A supermajority of our legislature has decided to ask Ohio voters an important question about protecting our state constitution — like most other states do,” he tweeted. “Now we’ll each have the right to vote. That’s how democracy works.”