COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio lawmakers missed their deadline Wednesday to pose before voters on the May ballot a proposal making it harder to amend the state constitution.

The lawmaker-led initiative to require 60% of voter support – as opposed to the existing simple majority of 50% plus one – to enact constitutional amendments failed to pass through the General Assembly by its Wednesday deadline, killing its chance to be considered by voters in May.

“It’s unfortunate that the can has been kicked down the road once again,” said Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Asheville), a co-sponsor of the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment. “The resolution has significant support from a majority of the Republican caucus, however, and I will continue to work towards its passage.”

Stewart, who reintroduced the proposal in January after it died in last year’s legislative session, said it’s intended to prevent special interest groups and out-of-state activists from abusing the Ohio Constitution. “Good ideas will pass with more than 60%,” Stewart said in December.

“Have you ever tried to sit down and read the Ohio Constitution? I have – it’s a mess,” he said. “It’s been constantly used to plop things in through initiative petitions, that, in a lot of cases, haven’t been necessarily vetted.”

In a December letter to his fellow House Republicans, Stewart tried to drum up support for the proposal – also backed by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose – by alerting his GOP colleagues to Democratic attempts to enshrine abortion rights into law and change the constitution’s redistricting rules.

“And that’s just in 2023,” Stewart wrote. “Almost every election cycle brings a new scheme from an outside special interest group – almost always from the Left – designed to buy on the statewide ballot what they can’t persuade us to do in the legislature.”

Opponents of the measure, including 140 advocacy organizations that signed a letter addressed to Republican leaders, have described the proposal as a power grab designed to curtail everyday Ohioans’ stake in politics. 

The League of Women Voters, Ohio Voter Rights Coalition and others that signed onto the letter argued the process to amend the state’s constitution is not overused and already poses strict stipulations for citizens, “requiring hundreds of thousands of verified signatures and a strict geographical distribution across at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties.”

“We see no justifiable reason, after over 100 years, to suddenly make this already challenging process harder,” the letter reads.

Nine other states require supermajorities to enact constitutional amendments: Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Wyoming and Florida, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Lawmakers must pass the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment by Aug. 9 in order to place the question before voters in November, according to the Secretary of State’s election calendar.