COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The five-member Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday morning certified the wording of Issue 1, which will go in front of voters in a recently declared Aug. 8 election — after Democrats on the board argued the ballot initiative language was misleading.
The Aug. 8 election became a reality a week ago, when the Ohio House cleared Senate Joint Resolution 2 on May 10. SJR2 seeks to ask voters whether it should be harder to amend the state constitution — including by raising the threshold for passage of amendments from a majority vote of 50% plus one to a 60% majority vote.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose signed off on SJR2 hours after the vote. He also chairs the ballot board.
As certified by the board on a 3-2 vote along party lines, Issue 1 will ask voters to vote yes or no on whether to amend the Ohio constitution on the following:
- “Require that any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Ohio receive the approval of at least 60 percent of eligible voters voting on the proposed amendment.”
- “Require that any initiative petition filed on or after January 1, 2024 with the Secretary of State proposing to amend the Constitution of the State of Ohio be signed by at least five percent of the eligible voters of each county in the state.”
- “Specify that additional signatures may not be added to an initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State on or after January 1, 2024 proposing to amend the Constitution of the State of Ohio.”
Don McTigue, an attorney for the One Person One Vote coalition, proposed tweaked language in testimony ahead of the Thursday morning vote. McTigue argued the ballot board’s prescribed language omitted what changes voters would actually be deciding on — such as what percentage is currently required for passage of an amendment.
“For all they know, it’s 70%. Perhaps, we’re lowering it,” McTigue said in his testimony. “We have to assume many voters will not know. This is a chance for this ballot board to fairly inform voters so that they can make an intelligent choice.”
Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) and Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-Euclid), who both voted against the language, raised the same argument. But LaRose, Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), and member William Morgan voted to certify the language.
The board also decided on who will write arguments for and against Issue 1, how the proposed amendment’s explanation will read, and how the state will disseminate information about the election.
LaRose said in an interview with NBC4 after the meeting that he feels the language is clear and concise.
“There will be a great civics conversation over the next few weeks in this state about should we put in the place the same kinds of protections other states have for the constitution,” LaRose said.
The state will bear the costs for the election — which LaRose estimated will come in between $10 and $15 million. In 2022, the August election cost was just more than $12 million, he said.
One Person One Vote is also challenging the legality of the Aug. 8 election. State lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have previously said the timing of Issue 1 in August is to preempt efforts at codifying abortion rights in the state constitution.
The lawsuit — filed Friday — argued in part that House Bill 458, which lawmakers voted on and Gov. Mike DeWine signed in December, only permits the state to hold elections in March, May, or November. The coalition argued against other actions state lawmakers have taken, calling the Aug. 8 election “illegal” in a court filing.
LaRose has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Read the full text certified by the Ohio Ballot Board here: