A Democratic-backed group that opposes Ohio State Issue 1, which wants to alter the process of how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments and an August special election to vote on it, has filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Ballot Board over the language they adopted to go before voters.
The group One Person One Vote filed the lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court in response to the Ohio Ballot Board adopting the summary language of Issue 1, the amendment to mandate a 60 percent approval percentage for any future constitutional amendments, call for signatures from all 88 counties and do away with the opportunity to “cure” petitions by collecting additional signatures if necessary, last week.
The Ballot Board adopted the language in a 3-2 vote last week despite claims from Attorney Don McTigue, representing One Person One Vote, that the language that will be visible on ballots could confuse and mislead voters.
According to McTigue, the amendment’s title, “Elevating The Standards To Qualify For And To Pass Any Constitutional Amendment,” provides a favorable meaning that could influence voters.
McTigue also told the board that it’s important to inform the voters that the current standard for approving a constitutional amendment is a simple majority. He also noted that the language should have explained that currently, petition signatures are only required from 44 counties.
The suit claims that “the ballot language does not make it clear that the 60 percent threshold to adopt amendments is a change from the current simple majority requirement. As a consequence, a voter might take the ballot language to mean the people of Ohio do not presently get to vote on proposed amendments at all, and might even understand the amendment itself to create that right in the first instance.”
One Person, One Vote is requesting that the court order the Ballot Board to reconvene and devise new summary text.
During the Ballot Board meeting last week when the language was approved Secretary of State Frank LaRose defended the title of the amendment saying that “elevating” is not an influential term but according to the Webster’s dictionary means to raise or increase.
LaRose also stated that he is aware that the current requirements for an initiative petition for a proposed constitutional amendment are not in the ballot language but he noted that it’s important that the summary of the amendment that the voters see on election day be concise and that voters will have opportunities to educate themselves on current standards prior to election day.
“Putting a ton of words on the actual ballot is confusing to people in and of itself. So we provide an explanation of what’s changing. We didn’t provide an explanation of what it currently is. We provided an explanation of what would be new if this were to pass and we believe it is going to be sufficient,” LaRose said.
One Person One Vote has also filed a lawsuit against Issue 1 and the August special election on the grounds that the resolution is unconstitutional and illegal. Through the attorney general’s office, LaRose asked the Ohio Supreme Court to throw out the lawsuit rejecting the coalition’s arguments that the state acted unlawfully by approving an August election just months after the legislature passed a bill to remove most of the late-summer voting.
The ballot question comes at a time when pro-abortion activists are working to pass a proposed constitutional amendment in November that would legalize abortion throughout the state.
A second proposed amendment that would eventually raise the state’s minimum wage will likely appear on a 2024 ballot.
LaRose has already directed Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections to begin preparations for an August 8th statewide special election.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “People Voting” by GPA Photo Archive. CC BY-NC 2.0.