It's official. Proposed abortion amendment will be on the November ballot.
The Ohio Secretary of State's office has certified petitions submitted by a coalition of doctors, abortion rights advocates and others who want Ohioans to vote in November on a proposal that, if passed, would enshrine abortion rights into Ohio's constitution.
The coalition submitted 710,131 petition signatures, but needed just shy of 414,000 valid signatures from 44 counties. The Secretary of State's office said 495,938 valid signatures were collected from 55 counties.
The next step is to take the matter before the Ohio Ballot Board so the Republican-dominated panel can determine language voters will see on the ballot when they vote on the measure this fall. There's no word yet on when that might happen.
While the abortion rights amendment made the ballot, the effort to compel a November vote on legalizing recreational marijuana did not. The Secretary of State's office ruled the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol fell short of the 124,046 valid petition signatures needed. The group submitted 222,198 signatures but only 123,367 were declared valid.
How many votes the abortion rights amendment will need for passage is yet to be determined. The only issue on an Aug. 8 special election ballot would increase the threshold for constitutional amendments, including the one in November, to 60%. The threshold now is a majority, 50% plus one vote.
The August proposal also would make it tougher for citizens to put future issues on the ballot by requiring a minimum number of signatures from all 88 counties instead of 44 counties.
Amendments initiated by the legislature would not have to go through that petition process and could be placed straight on the ballot by legislative vote.
Early voting for the Aug. 8 election is now underway at local voting centers or by mail. Turnout for this election has been higher than had been anticipated and there have been lines at some early vote centers throughout the state.
Kellie Copeland of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights said she's not surprised because the group checked signatures before turning them in. But she’s pleased.
“It’s very exciting to see that we have, in fact, met the threshold and exceeded it and that we are on our way to guaranteeing reproductive freedom for Ohioans on November 7," said Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio.
The next step for the amendment is the Republican dominated Ohio Ballot Board. Members of that panel will determine the language voters will see on the ballot when they cote in November. Gabriel Mann of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights said he thinks the simplicity of the amendment will be to the group’s advantage when the board considers ballot language.
“There’s always shenanigans in the Statehouse, but we feel confident that we have written a solid amendment that should be enshrined in the Ohio constitution," Mann said.
There is no word yet on when the board might meet to consider the ballot language.
Opponents of the abortion amendment said they are going to focus now on defeating it. Michelle Duffey, associate director of communications and outreach for the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said her group will be among those who will be working to defeat the abortion amendment in November.
“We respect life from the point of conception to the point of natural death," Duffey said.
Protect Women Ohio's Amy Natoce said canvassers from her group have knocked on more than 105,000 doors since May, trying to convince Ohioans to vote against the abortion amendment that she calls "extreme." She said the group has spent $8 million on television, radio and digital advertisements.
Opponents vowed to continue their campaign to defeat the measure now that it has made the ballot.