Ohio Ballot Board rewrites Issue 1 language on constitutional change for August election
Just a day after the Ohio Supreme Court told the Ballot Board it must rewrite language for a proposed constitutional amendment set to be on the August ballot, the panel made changes to the wording on Issue 1. But the changes are not sitting well with Democrats, and there are questions about whether it is accurate.
Issue 1 would require 60% voter approval for all future constitutional amendments. The current standard is a simple majority, which is not stated in the ballot language. Backers of Issue 1 have said they want the higher threshold in place before a possible amendment on abortion rights could be decided in November.
The court ruled that Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose must redo the title, which currently says Issue 1 would apply to "any" amendment, even though the signature requirement and elimination of a 10-day period to gather more signatures would apply only to citizen-initiated proposals.
The court also noted language that said signatures are required from 5% of all electors in all 88 counties isn't accurate. It should state 5% of all voters who participated in the last gubernatorial elections in those counties.
The new title of the amendment is: “Elevating the standards to qualify for an initiated constitutional amendment and to pass a constitutional amendment.” “Elevating” replaces the original word ”elevate.”
Attorney Don McTigue represents One Person, One Vote, the coalition of groups that has been suing over the Issue 1 ballot language and the August special election. McTigue said the board should have gone further in changing the title of the amendment.
The new title is confusing and does not go far enough to satisfy the court’s order, McTigue said. He and the ballot board's two Democrats said the new language is still unclear and confusing.
A few suggestions were made on how to change the language, but, in the end, LaRose and the two other Republicans on the board went with the proposed language developed behind closed doors.
After the meeting, LaRose told reporters it was unnecessary to add context into the language as Democrats had suggested.
“Well, I think they have a clear idea of what they're voting on. The opportunity to make the argument about whether the current number's better, the threshold that we've proposed is better,” LaRose said. “I don't think that that we want to over-complicate the ballot language. I think that we want to put it in front of the voters what they're being asked to approve. And that's exactly what we've done.”
The language that was adopted was developed after from the court order and the constitution itself, LaRose said.
But Democrats disagreed.
Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) said local boards of elections are telling him they are under stress right now, trying to accommodate an Aug. 8 election they hadn’t planned on conducting just a few months ago. And DeMora blasted the proposed constitutional change effort.
“This is a pure sham of a ballot. It is first of all, it's a sham election,” DeMora said.
McTigue said he plans to talk to his clients to determine the next steps in this situation. When asked whether there is time for the court to consider more legislation before the August election, he responded this way:
“Time moves on, right? But it’s not a time crunch created by my client. It’s a time crunch that would be created by the ballot board.”
But, he said if a lawsuit is filed, it will be filed quickly.