State officials expanded their legal defense on Monday in a new filing against a lawsuit that challenges the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2, and an August special election to vote on.
The lawsuit filed by a Democratic-backed group, One Person One Vote, asserts that an August special election is illegal since statewide special elections were banned by the Ohio General Assembly in December due to their high costs and poor voter turnout.
The new filing by Attorney General Dave Yost (pictured above) in the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday says that even though Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill (HB) 458 into law earlier this year, drastically altering the state’s election laws, including requiring a photo ID and eliminating August elections lawmakers should be able to set a special election for this upcoming August.
The filing cites part of the Ohio Constitution that describes how and when lawmakers can pose proposed constitutional amendments to voters. The filing says that proposed amendments from state lawmakers can be sent before voters “at either a special or a general election as the General Assembly may prescribe.”
“Just like the General Assembly cannot legislate away an individual’s constitutional rights, it also cannot legislate away its own constitutional powers,” Yost said.
The document serves as the state’s official, comprehensive response to the One Person One Vote lawsuit in response to the passage of a resolution, the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment, aimed at altering the process of how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments on May 10th on the grounds that the resolution is unconstitutional and illegal.
Lawmakers approved the amendment by a vote of 62-37, which triggered a special election in August to vote on the amendment that would 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.
Following the General Assembly’s decision, Secretary of State Frank LaRose directed Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections to begin preparations for an August 8th statewide special election. The Ohio Ballot Board is expected to approve SJR 2’s language on Thursday.
The complaint against LaRose asks the Ohio Supreme Court to remove SJR 2 from the August 8th special election ballot.
“This Court should not countenance this cynical attempt to undermine a century-old pillar of Ohio’s democracy by means of an illegal election,” the complaint says.
Last week, LaRose, through the attorney general’s office, 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.
Republican lawmakers are working on getting SJR 2 on the special August election ballot before a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion in the state constitution goes before voters in November.
According to State Representative Adam Bird (R-Canal Winchester), it is “necessary” to allow Ohioans to vote on protecting the Constitution in August.
“It allows Ohioans to vote on protecting the Constitution. This is pro-voter because Ohioans will get to decide this issue,” Bird said.
State Representative Beth Lear (R-Galena), told The Ohio Star that she finds it ironic that the people opposing the amendment hire an outside group to do their fighting for them but has “trust in Ohio voters over Leftist hacks every day.”
“How ironic the people who oppose making it more difficult for outside groups to manipulate our Constitution hire an outside group from DC to do their fighting for them. Marc Elias of Perkins Cole, the lawyer and firm made famous by manufacturing a fake story about President Trump and Russia, aren’t going to win in Ohio either. Ohioans are going to be the ones to decide whether they want their constitution filled with garbage like casinos and the elimination of parental rights or whether we’re going to make it harder to change our foundational document. I trust Ohio voters over Leftist hacks every day,” Lear said.
The GOP maintains that it has a compelling legal argument and will prevail in court.
LaRose’s spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Star that “they do not comment on litigation.”
One Person One Vote has until the end of the week to respond to the state’s official response and then it will be up to the Ohio Supreme Court if they will take up the case.
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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 “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost. Background Photo “Ohio Supreme Court” by Sixflashphoto. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Editor’s Note: Beth Lear was a journalist with The Ohio Star from May 2019 to December 2019.