Promises being made and politics being played in final days of early voting on Issue 1
As the end of early voting and election day come closer, both supporters and opponents of Issue 1 are making their final pitches and promises, centered around an abortion ban that’s currently on hold through litigation.
Issue 1 would guarantee abortion and reproductive rights in Ohio’s constitution. If it fails, a ban on abortion after six weeks could be reinstated. The law in effect now sets the ban at viability, or around 22 weeks.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a strong opponent of abortion, said he knows many Ohioans don’t like that six-week ban, which has been in legal limbo for a year. DeWine said Ohioans who want changes to that ban should vote “no” on Issue 1 to allow him and majority Republican state lawmakers to work on it.
“It’s become very, very clear as we’ve had discussions over the last year or so that the vast majority of Ohioans believe there should be an exception for rape or incest,” DeWine said. “So, what I have said is if we are able to defeat this constitutional amendment, we need to go back to try to come up with something that the majority of Ohioans can in fact agree on.”
It’s not exactly clear how DeWine intends to make changes.
DeWine said he has not filed anything with the Ohio Supreme Court to signal intentions to notify the court of potential changes ahead or ask the court to vacate the appeal of a Hamilton County Court ruling that put the six-week ban on hold last year. dismiss the state’s case. And Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican who also opposes Issue 1, said the governor has not asked him to file anything with the Ohio Supreme Court either.
When asked assurances voters have that state leaders would come up with something more acceptable to them, DeWine indicated the referendum process makes it important to develop a new abortion policy. And if Issue 1 fails, he said the state “always has the avenue to do that.”
“Because we have the ability of a referendum and people have the ability to take this directly to the voters, it has become abundantly clear that we need to revisit this,” DeWine said.
For the better part of a year, DeWine has been urging legislative leaders to revisit the six-week abortion ban. But they haven’t done that, and some majority Republican lawmakers have been backing even more restrictive abortion legislation.
In August, during an interview with reporters, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) threw a question about whether members of his chamber would revisit the law back to DeWine. “I would to hear Gov. DeWine’s suggestions as to what he thinks that should look like,” Huffman said. A couple of days later, DeWine backed off his suggestion of revisiting the six-week ban, saying it should happen after the November election.
Some doubt DeWine's sincerity
The former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, doesn’t believe DeWine and Republicans will follow through on this promise. Pepper said DeWine should have been moved to seek an exception to that law last summer when a 10-year-old Ohio girl who’d been raped was taken to Indiana to get an abortion that she couldn’t get in Ohio.
“He’s only proposing to change it now with a week to go, when polls show people hate the extreme abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest that forced that 10-year-old rape victim to go to Indiana? So he’s only saying he’s going to change it because of an election and polling?” Pepper said.
Pepper said he’s seen his share of political campaigns, but this one is different. He said paid government officials approved a ballot summary that changed the meaning of the amendment and put out disinformation with government funds through events and podcasts. And he said Republicans tried to derail the amendment in August by asking voters to raise the threshold to approve future amendments, which he said was an attempt to change the rules mid-stream. Voters rejected that proposed change 57%-43%.
“Here we have people in government using taxpayer dollars to put out disinformation, again, not through the campaign only which is something we are all more used to but through actual government channels,” Pepper said.
Pepper noted DeWine has not followed through with a promise to reduce gun violence or discourage gerrymandering.
Pepper said he believes the misinformation is working to sway some voters. Polls show around 57% of Ohioans would vote “yes” on the amendment, but Pepper thinks the actual vote will be closer on Election Day. He said he believes it will pass, but it’s a matter of getting people out to vote.
Both sides of Issue 1 are making that their focus right now. DeWine made his comments to reporters after he rallied student volunteers who were getting ready to canvass door to door against Issue 1. And backers of Issue 1 are knocking on doors too, trying to turn out their base.
Early voting continues into this weekend with hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Polls are closed Monday. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.