Ohio Lawmakers Submit Arguments for and Against Issue 1 to Increase Threshold for Initiative Petitions

Ohio Republican and Democratic lawmakers submitted written arguments for and against Issue 1 on Monday, which aims to alter how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Issue 1, if approved by voters, 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.

According to Section 3505.063 of the Ohio Revised Code, “When the General Assembly adopts a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment, it may, by resolution, designate a group of members who voted in support of the resolution to prepare arguments for the proposed amendment, and a group of members who voted in opposition to the resolution to prepare arguments against the proposed amendment.”

Since the Ohio General Assembly did not pass a resolution appointing groups of persons to draft arguments either for or against the proposed constitutional amendment, the Ohio Ballot Board is tasked to either prepare the arguments or designate groups of persons to prepare them.

According to LaRose, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) (pictured above, right) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) (pictured above, left), as well as House Minority Leader Allison Russo (R-Upper Arlington) (pictured above, second from right) and Senate Minority Leader Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood) (pictured above, second from left), submitted letters to the Ohio Ballot Board last week recommending the names of people to prepare arguments for and against the proposed constitutional amendment.

The Ohio Ballot Board unanimously approved the suggested names during their meeting last week, giving lawmakers a May 22nd timeline to submit their arguments. The Republican arguments were prepared by State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) and State Senator Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). The Democratic arguments were prepared by State Senators Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and State Representatives Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus), Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake) and Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati).

The Democratic lawmakers argue that Issue 1 “would destroy citizen-driven ballot initiatives as we know them, upending our right to make decisions that directly impact our lives.”

The Democratic lawmakers contend that Issue 1 would put 40 percent of voters in charge of decision-making for the majority, would permanently undo constitutional protections that have been in place for over 100 years, would destroy citizen-driven ballot initiatives as we know them, and will apply to every single amendment on any issue Ohioans will ever vote on.

The Democratic-backed group 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-sum voting.

The Republican lawmakers argue that “Issue 1 protects our Constitution from deep-pocketed, out-of-state interests. By passing Issue 1, the people will ensure constitutional changes are widely accepted and declare that Ohio’s Constitution is not for sale.”

The Republican lawmakers said that Issue 1 will ensure that amendments have widespread support and tell special interests that the state Constitution is not up for grabs, by requiring signatures from voters in every county, special interests will no longer be able to cherry-pick where they gather signatures, and by restricting the do-overs on signature submissions special interests will have only once chance to play by the rules.

According to Stewart, it was a privilege to help prepare arguments for Issue 1.

“It was a privilege to work with my friend Rob McColley and our caucus staff in drafting the “Yes on Issue 1” arguments that Ohioans will see at the ballot box,” Rep. Stewart said.

The arguments will be available to all voters at their polling places on the August 8th 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 “Jason Stephens” by Ohio House of Representatives. Photo “Matt Huffman ” by The Ohio Senate. Photo “Allison Russo” by Allison Russo. Photo “Nickie Antonio” by Nickie J. Antonio. Background
Photo “Ohio Capitol” by General Ization. CC BY 3.0.




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