The Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Attempt to Overhaul State Constitution Amendment Process
The Ohio Supreme Court made a significant ruling on Monday regarding a Republican-backed ballot amendment proposal that aimed to raise the requirements for amending the state’s constitution. The court largely struck down the proposed changes, which would have required future constitutional amendment proposals to receive approval from 60 percent of voters instead of a simple majority.
The ballot initiative, known as Issue 1, also sought to mandate that initiative petitions for constitutional amendment proposals be signed by at least five percent of eligible voters in each county and eliminate the provision allowing additional signatures to be added after the petition is filed.
According to Ohio law, the secretary of state is responsible for creating the title for any ballot amendment, while the state ballot board crafts the proposal’s language.
Following the creation of the proposal, a group called One Person One Vote and several Ohio residents filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to revise the ballot language or include the full text of the proposed amendment on the ballot. They also requested a new proposal title from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
In response, the election integrity legal group Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE) filed an amicus brief arguing that the lawsuit was an attempt to undermine the democratic process and prevent Ohio voters from addressing important constitutional questions.
The Ohio Supreme Court, in its decision, largely supported the ballot board’s position, stating that the claims made by the plaintiffs about misleading ballot language did not hold up under legal scrutiny. The court also denied the request to include the full text of the amendment proposal on the ballot.
However, the court did side with the plaintiffs on two points. It ruled that the use of the word “any” in reference to “constitutional amendment” in the proposal’s title could mislead voters and ordered a new title without such wording. Additionally, the court found that the language requiring a certain percentage of signatures from each county was misleading and overstated the number of signatures needed.
Despite the media’s portrayal of this ruling as a defeat for Republicans, it is important to note that the Ohio Ballot Board itself acknowledged the need to revise the language regarding the signature collection portion of the amendment proposal. The court’s decision simply reinforces this acknowledgment.
Leftist outlets like The Washington Post and The New Republic have sensationalized the minor changes ordered by the court, framing them as a “blow” to Republicans. These outlets advance the narrative that the proposal aims to hinder abortion activists’ efforts to codify abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution.
However, the ruling does not spell defeat for Republicans. The focus on changing the language of the signature collection section has overshadowed the fact that Ohioans will still have the opportunity to vote on Issue 1 in a special election on Aug. 8.
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