COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio’s top election official denied on Monday an advocacy group’s claims that his approval of a statewide August election is illegal.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose asked the Ohio Supreme Court to dismiss a complaint filed by the One Person One Vote coalition challenging the legality of the state’s plan to forge ahead with an Aug. 8 special election for the purpose of asking voters whether to make it harder to amend the state constitution.

In his response — filed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office — LaRose rejected the coalition’s arguments that the state acted unlawfully by greenlighting an August election just months after the Legislature passed a bill to nix most of the late-summer voting.

To stave off a November ballot initiative enshrining abortion rights into the state constitution, the General Assembly initially adopted a two-pronged proposal: First, it would allow for an August special election by way of Senate Bill 92; and second, it would approve Senate Joint Resolution 2 that would – if approved by voters at the ballot box – require 60% of voter support to amend the Ohio Constitution as opposed to a simple majority.

But after some House Republicans expressed concern about administering an August special election just months after the Legislature voted to nix most of them due to cost and low turnout of 8%, the House voted to fast-track its plans Wednesday by folding SB 92’s election allocation into SJR 2.

The Senate concurred on the vote, and within hours LaRose signed off, ordering election workers to begin preparing for an Aug. 8 vote. The Ohio Ballot Board is expected to approve SJR 2’s language on Thursday.

In its lawsuit Friday afternoon, the One Person One Vote campaign argued that the Legislature’s December adoption of a new election law – House Bill 458 – only permits the state to hold a special election on a constitutional amendment in the months of November, March or May.

HB 458 contends that special elections held in August can only be administered by localities undergoing a fiscal emergency, the campaign wrote, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to scrap the statewide August special election entirely.

“This Court should not countenance this cynical attempt to undermine a century-old pillar of Ohio’s democracy by means of an illegal election,” the coalition wrote in its complaint.

One Person One Vote also argued that state lawmakers do not have the power to change the provisions of HB 458 and when an August special election is held by way of a joint resolution; such action must only be taken by way of statute — such as tweaking the enacted HB 458 or adopt an entirely new bill.

Steven Steinglass, a retired dean and law professor at Cleveland State University’s College of Law who authored a book about the Ohio Constitution, said the coalition makes a strong argument. The state’s statutory law — including HB 458 — cannot be repealed or amended by a joint resolution, Steinglass said, citing an 1897 case before the state’s highest court.

“That’s 123 years ago, and I view this as a bedrock principle of Ohio constitutional law,” he said. “Two different instruments, two different processes — you can’t combine them.”

The coalition has three days to file evidence, if any, rebutting the state’s arguments. It remains unclear when the state’s highest court will issue a judgment, but One Person One Vote spokesperson Dennis Willard said timing is of utmost importance.

“Both sides of the issue and the court understand that timing is critical because the election officials across the state have to know whether they need to plan for a special election in August, and that’s a great burden on them,” Willard said.

A LaRose spokesperson declined to comment on pending litigation.