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Ohio Leaders Want To Make It Harder For Citizens To Change Constitution

Ohio House

Leaders of the Ohio Legislature say it’s time to look at restricting ways for citizens to change the state constitution.

House Speaker Ryan Smith says Ohio’s constitution is under attack, as groups have been asking voters to amend it as a way to get around the legislature on certain issues. The latest example was Issue 1, the drug sentencing ballot proposal that failed by a 2-to-1 margin this Tuesday.

Smith, a Republican, says that’s not what Ohio’s founding fathers envisioned.

“We’re going to work in a bipartisan way to have those discussions and try to make sure that we do our best to protect that document, because it is too important," Smith says.

Senate President Larry Obhof also says he thinks the constitution is being used and abused.

Ohio Republicans were united in opposition to Issue 1, which they saidshould be addressed by the legislature rather than through a constitutional amendment. Supporters of the proposal said the legislature had years to pass criminal justice reforms, but failed to make progress addressing overcrowded prisons and encouraging drug treatment.

Right now, groups that want to change the constitution must gather signatures from half of Ohio’s 88 counties. That total needs to be at least 10 percent of the last vote for governor, or more than 305,000 signatures. 

Lawmakers might try to increase that number or raise the threshold for passing future constitutional changes through the ballot.

Voters have rejected three statewide ballot issues in the last four years, including a marijuana legalization amendment in 2015 and a drug price amendment in 2017.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.