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Two elections on amendments make 2023 a historic year for Ohio's constitution

Ohio Constitution
Karen Kasler

This week’s election featuring Issue 1, the constitutional amendment on abortion rights, brought out an unofficial total of 48.86% of Ohio’s registered voters. 39.03% of voters showed up in August to cast ballots on an amendment to make it harder to pass future amendments.

The leading expert on Ohio’s constitution says even though turnouts were low, the votes were historic.

Most amendments have come from state lawmakers. A total of 157 amendments have come from the general assembly, and voters approved 106 of them.

But 72 times, citizen-backed amendments have been put before voters. Issue 1 was the 20th one approved.

Cleveland State University College of Law dean emeritus Steven Steinglass is the author of the primary reference book on the Ohio constitution. Steinglass that said the approvla of Issue 1, along with the 60% voter approval requirement for amendments that was rejected in August, are a big deal.

“I think 2023 was the most consequential year in the history of the Ohio Constitution since the adoption of direct democracy in 1912," Steinglass said.

And Steinglass said the passage of Issue 2, the law on legal recreational marijuana, was important too. It marked the fourth time in 111 years that voters approved an initiated statute that lawmakers didn’t pass. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had brought the proposal to legislators in January, and when they didn't act on it, the group gathered 127,772 valid signatures to put the statute before voters.

On Tuesday night, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) - an outspoken opponent of Issue 1 - said in a statement: "This isn't the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1."

Steinglass said "nothing legally prevents that," but he added, "the fact of the matter is that's never, never, ever been done in Ohio. Never has the General Assembly sought to overturn the vote of the people in an initiated amendment."

Gov. Mike DeWine has said "we accept the results of elections, and we certainly accept the results of Issue 1 in Ohio as well as Issue 2." But he's also said he wants changes to Issue 2 before that law goes into effect on Dec. 6. And on Issue 1, DeWine said people "will have the opportunity to make a decision and to continue to judge how it is, in fact, working.”


Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.