After Americans voted in favor of abortion rights in five state ballot measures during the midterm elections—and in another state earlier this year—activists want to put the issue directly in front of even more voters. Last week, Ohio abortion rights advocates told reporters that their goal is to get a measure on the ballot to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights. (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a six-week abortion ban in 2019 that took effect after Roe v. Wade fell but is currently blocked by courts.)
Kellie Copeland, the executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, said that “it’s a when, it’s not an if” her organization pursues such a measure, Ohio Capital Journal reported.
On Thursday, in allegedly unrelated news, Ohio Republicans announced that they want to make it harder to pass ballot initiatives. Currently, ballot measures need 50 percent of the vote to pass, but Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Rep. Brian Stewart want to up that to 60 percent. In a press conference, LaRose said the proposed change would make it harder for “special interest groups” to influence changes to the state constitution.
Stewart said he would work to get the proposal through the legislature by the end of this year. If the proposal is successful, voters would still need to approve the change in May. (Yes, that would be a referendum on referendums.)
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The Fairness Project, a group that supports ballot measures to advance economic and social justice, slammed the proposal. “Let’s be clear about what this announcement means: Ohio Republicans are planning a power grab next year in order to diminish voters’ power at the ballot box,” Executive Director Kelly Hall said in a statement. “They know voters don’t agree with them on the issues, so they are changing the rules of the game.”
State Rep. Bride Sweeney (D) said in a statement that voters would reject efforts to raise ballot initiative thresholds. “The people will not vote to silence themselves on issues like workers’ rights, voters’ rights, and abortion rights, Sweeney said. “The reckless arrogance of an unchecked GOP supermajority is on full display. It’s difficult to imagine being so afraid of the popular will when they already have such a rigged monopoly on power.”