On Tuesday, May 10, 2023, Ohio State House Republicans – including DJ Swearingen (R-HD89) and Dick Stein (R-HD-54) – passed SJR2 – which was co-sponsored by Ohio State Senator Theresa Gavarone who represents State Senate District 2 including Erie County, which approved a special election in August that would cost $20 million that, if the majority of voters – 50% + 1 – approve, would raise the ballot referendum passing threshold from a simple 50% +1 majority to a 60% +1 supermajority.
To put this issue into current sports context: Basketball players would protest having to win by 60% rather than the one point required for a victory. Baseball and softball players would protest having the bases moved farther away as they speed toward it.
Keep in mind, the state house just banned August elections – except for emergency school levies – with HB458 this past January 2023, which Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed into law, because such elections are historically low-turnout (10-15 percent at best), are expensive to conduct and not a fair representation of democracy. But now they are making an exception to force this through.
This is primarily being done to stop reproductive choice initiative being planned for November 2023 and the anti-gerrymandering initiative for 2024. But this would have a long-standing effect on other ballot initiatives, such as marijuana legalization, minimum wage increases, basically anything.
Over 240 + bipartisan groups, 4 former Ohio Governors, 5 former Ohio AGs and Ohio Building Trades blasted the plan to make it harder to amend constitution. Former Governors Bob Taft (R), John Kasich (R), Dick Celeste (D) and Ted Strickland (D), former AGs Richard A. Cordray (D), Lee I. Fisher (D), Betty D. Montgomery (R), James M. Petro (R) and Nancy H. Rogers (R) all come out saying the 60% proposal to make it harder to amend Ohio’s Constitution is bad for Ohio and the General Assembly should not place this proposal on the ballot. “Ohio voters should reject this effort to change a fundamental element of our state constitution that has been in effect for more than 100 years.” Citizen-led amendments represent instances in which Ohio citizens have had a means for amending the constitution to meet our concerns. This August 2023 Special Election will cost Ohioans another $25 million as did the last August 2022 Special Election.
In addition, local county elections officials around the state had sent a clear message for state house Republicans: Do not schedule an August special election after you just got rid of them. Jake Zuckerman reports, after calling boards of elections around the state, that virtually all locals he spoke to from both parties said August elections are a bad idea for a fatigued state elections system.
Watch this space for more details as plans unfold. Please visit votenoinaugust.org for additional information and/or to sign up to get involved.