COLUMBUS, Ohio — Secretary of State Frank LaRose is partnering with Republican State Rep. Brian Stewart, of Ashville, to propose the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment.
What You Need To Know
- The amendment would require petition-based amendments to pass with 60% of the vote instead of simple majority
- LaRose and Stewart said they proposed the amendment to protect the state constitution from special interest groups
- The amendment would need a 2/3 approval of the Republican-led General Assembly in order to go to the ballot
- If it reaches the ballot, a vote on the amendment would only need a simple majority to pass in May 2023
If the amendment were to be adopted, petition-based amendments would have to get at least 60% of the vote in order to pass intead of a simple majority.
The proposal itself is a constitutional amendment and will have to make it through the Republican-controlled legislature before going on the ballot in May of 2023.
LaRose said Thursday that the change is designed to keep special interest groups out of state politics.
“Raising that threshold to require that 60% for passage I think is a very good idea and it may discourage if someone is a special interest and wants to create a monopoly for themselves or just try to do something that narrowly benefits their own interest,” said LaRose. “That may make them think twice about trying to amend the constitution.”
LaRose and Stewart said that they have been working on this amendment for some time. If it passes the legislature, it would go before voters next spring in a special election, which typically have low voter turnout. It would only need a simple majority at that point to pass.
“It's unfortunately the fact that people tend to participate at lower rates in those odd number years, I wish that wasn’t the case but it doesn’t mean for two years stop making improvements that need to be made,” said LaRose.
The citizen's ballot initiative process has been in use in Ohio for over a century — it was introduced in 1912.
Jen Miller, the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, criticized the proposal and said that it could hinder the checks and balances between Ohio voters and their legislators. She noted the timing of the amendment, since topics like abortion have gotten more attention.
“They’re [Republicans] concerned that there could be a redistricting reform measure on the ballot,” said Miller. “They’re concerned that perhaps abortion or minimum wage or any other issue could get on the ballot by everyday citizens and they want complete control as to how the state operates.”
Since 2000, only three of the 16 petition-based constitutional amendments have garnerd 60% or more of the vote, while 12 of the 17 general assembly initiated amendments have reached 60% or more.
Steven Steinglass, a former Dean of Cleveland State University’s Law School, said that LaRose and Stewart are trying to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
“When I say there really isn’t a problem there, the voters have been discerning, discriminating, they have eliminated what they don’t like and there really isn’t evidence that somehow out of state interests have captured the initiative process,” said Steinglass.