By State Senator Paula Hicks Hudson
On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, Ohioans will vote on the boldest challenge to our democracy yet. Issue 1, the only item on the ballot, seeks to fundamentally remove the right of Ohioans to shape and alter our constitution. Issue 1 would drastically raise the thresholds citizen-led initiatives must meet before they can be placed on the ballot and to pass once they are on the ballot.
From the founding of our country, there have been limitations placed on the voice of everyday people. Like Jim Crow laws and poll taxes in the South, Issue 1 is the latest attempt to stifle our voices and take power away from the people. It places the power in the hands of small minorities, first by changing the number of counties citizens must gather petition signatures in from 44 (half of the counties) to 88 (every county). It would only take failing to collect enough signatures in one county to prevent all Ohio voters from making their voices heard on issues that matters to them. With such high standards, only big-money special interest groups will be able to get initiatives before voters.
Currently, under our Ohio Constitution, initiatives that make it onto the ballot to be voted on by the People need 50% + 1 of the votes cast to pass. Issue 1 would raise that threshold to 60% of the votes cast, again stripping away the will of the simple majority that decides all other Ohio elections. Under Issue 1, it only takes 40%+1 of Ohioans to decide the laws all Ohioans will live under.
With such an important choice on the line, why did the Republican supermajority decide to hold this crucial vote during a special August election, rather than put it on the ballot for the general election in November?
After all, just last December, the legislature eliminated most August special elections due to low turnout and high administration costs. In support of the legislation, Ohio’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, claimed they produce “chronically low turnout elections when voters aren’t expecting an election to occur – and that is bad news for the civic health of our state.” He added, “Voters just don’t turn out. That means just a handful of voters end up making big decisions. The side that wins is often the one that has a vested interest in the passage of the issue up for consideration.”
Why then, did the Republican majority insist on holding a special election on August 8th for Issue 1, even when it was in direct opposition to the law they just passed a few months prior? The reason is simple. The gerrymandered GOP supermajority has a vested interest in maintaining their power by undermining ballot issues that a majority of Ohioans support. They have seen the power the People wield when we mobilize, like in 2011 when the people of Ohio overwhelmingly repealed Senate Bill 5 to protect Ohio’s public employee unions. They are afraid to let Ohioans weigh in on issues such as reproductive justice, an increased minimum wage, fully legalized marijuana, and, especially, creating an independent citizens’ redistricting commission to stop partisan gerrymandering.
Yes, Issue 1 is about protecting Ohio’s constitution but not from out-of-state interests seeking to undermine the will of the People as the GOP has claimed. By voting NO on Issue 1, Ohioans are protecting their constitution from a Republican power grab meant to undermine the voice of the People. Republicans are relying on low voter turnout, confusion caused by the blatant reversal of their own election laws, and fear to strip away yet another right from the People. Our democracy is on the line this August 8, 2023.
Every Ohio voter must stand up to protect majority rule and the right of citizens to effectively use their voice by making a plan to vote NO on Issue 1 on or before August 8.
Paula Hicks-Hudson, State Senator representing Senate District 11.