Plan to require 60% approval for Ohio constitutional amendments could get August vote
Groups are gathering signatures for a constitutional amendment on reproductive rights they hope to get on the ballot in November. Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled Wednesday on a Republican-backed plan to make it harder to amend Ohio’s constitution, including requiring 60% voter approval for amendments and not a simple majority as in law now.
And a key Republican leader is suggesting a possible statewide vote on the 60% requirement amendment could happen this summer, before the abortion amendment could be voted on this fall.
August elections were abandoned in the law that takes effect next month requiring voters to show photo ID. But Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) there could be still be a special statewide election in August to vote on the proposal to require 60% of voters approve constitutional amendments.
“The answer is yes. I think that we have, of course, the August primary as a recurring election was removed. But there are a lot of special elections that we have, whether it's for Congress and seems to me when we were dealing with redistricting ten years ago, we actually had two primaries set, one in May and one in June because of congressional map problems and things like that," Huffman said. "So I think that's a possibility that that could be placed on in a special election in August."
Though the measure to require 60% voter approval is a House resolution, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said he hasn’t heard about plans for an August vote.
"I have not. I know that there's going to be a hearing tomorrow, so it'll be interesting to see the questions and the comments on that. And I'm glad there's finally going to be a hearing," Stephens said.
The Republican chair of the committee hearing the resolution had announced earlier this month that it would not be meeting until further notice.
The sponsor of the 60% requirement amendment said in a letter in December that it could shut down efforts to put on abortion access and redistricting changes in Ohio’s constitution.
The resolution would also make other changes, such as requiring signatures from all 88 counties, not 44 as in current law. And it would eliminate the 10-day period in which backers can get more signatures if their initial drive is short the number of valid signatures they need.
A coalition of more than 175 groups protested a similar resolution proposed late last year. Opponents said the idea was undemocratic because it allows a minority to block a majority of voters, and was being rushed to stop abortion and redistricting issues. Critics also said it’s already hard to amend the constitution, and any change to the 110-year old right to do so deserves careful consideration and public input, as happened when the Constitutional Modernization Commission looked into changes a decade ago, and rejected them.