Backers of Ohio abortion amendment prepare to submit petitions for November ballot
Advocates for reproductive rights spent the weekend making their last big push collecting petition signatures. The coalition must turn in 414,000 valid signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office by July 5 to get an abortion rights issue before voters this fall.
On Monday, volunteers processed petitions collected over the weekend at a community festival in downtown Columbus.
When the petitions came into the office, volunteers separated them into groups. It's part of the process of making sure petitions are accounted for and valid, said Gabe Mann with Pro-Choice Ohio.
“We are dividing them up by county. We are making sure to register them in our own tracker — which petitions came from which counties — and keeping track of those. We are separating them out and then they are getting sent off to a separate group doing quality control. We want to make sure everything is being done by the book, and we are meeting all of the different requirements,” Mann said.
In churches and at community events around the state, opponents of abortion were also making pitches of their own for a constitutional change that will be put before voters in a special Aug. 8 statewide election.
"We have canvassers going door to door, we have town halls happening throughout the state, and we are taking our message directly to Ohioans," said Amy Natoce with Protect Women Ohio, one of the groups backing the August election.
Issue 1, the amendment going before voters this summer, would make it harder for citizens and groups to pass constitutional amendments by requiring a 60% threshold for passage. It would also increase signature requirements to include all 88 counties instead of the current 44 counties, and it does away with the cure period that currently allows groups to collect more signatures if needed.
Many who want to pass this change say a special August election is necessary to prevent out-of-state, special interest groups from amending Ohio’s constitution. The yes vote effort is largely being funded by an Illinois businessman who has bankrolled other conservative causes.
Many who back the plan admit the August measure is intended to put in place the higher 60% bar before the proposed abortion rights amendment appears on the ballot in November.
Most polling shows the reproductive rights amendment would likely pass with somewhere between 50 to 60% support. Anti-abortion groups, gun rights organizations and some big business lobby groups are pushing for the August constitutional amendment in order to make it harder to pass proposals such as gun regulations or an increase in the minimum wage.