Officially, abortion has nothing to do with the constitutional amendment that Ohio voters rejected today. The word did not appear anywhere on the ballot, and no abortion laws would change as a result of the outcome.
Practically and politically, the defeat of the ballot initiative known as Number 1 revolved around abortion, giving reproductive rights advocates the latest in a string of victories in the year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Fearing passage of the abortion rights amendment in November, Ohio Republicans asked voters to approve a proposal that would raise the minimum age for a change to the state constitution, which currently requires a simple majority vote. An action on the ballot today would have raised the threshold to 60 percent.
Ohio voters, who had turned out in unusually large numbers in the summer special election, refused. Their decision was a rare victory for Democrats in a state dominated by Republicans, and signals that abortion remains a powerful incentive for voters heading into next year’s presidential election. The Ohio results could spur abortion rights advocates to step up their efforts to circumvent Republican-controlled state legislatures by bringing the issue directly to voters. They have reason to feel good about their chances: since the Supreme Court’s decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s HealthBallot measures for abortion rights were undefeated at the state level, winning in blue states like Vermont and California as well as red states like Kansas and Kentucky.
In Kansas last summer, the abortion rights team’s 18-point victory surprised bipartisans in a socially conservative state. But by the final day of voting in Ohio, Number 1’s defeat could no longer be considered an upset. For weeks, Democrats accustomed to disappointment in Ohio have watched early voting numbers rise in the state’s large metropolitan and suburban counties. If Republicans were hoping to nap voters by scheduling the election in the August days, they miscalculated. When I traveled to the state recently, I saw this vote no signs in front yards and outside churches in areas far from the big cities, and progressive organizers told me volunteers were signing up to knock on doors at levels unheard of for a summer campaign. And the opposition extended to include some independent voters and Republicans who saw the proposal as a denial of their rights. “It’s a ‘don’t step on me’ moment where voters are energized,” says Kathryn Torcier, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a good government advocacy group that helped lead efforts to repeal the amendment.
Opponents of Number 1 put together a bipartisan coalition that included two former Republican governors. They focused their message broadly, appealing to the electorate to “protect the rule of the majority” and to stop the brazen seizure of power by the legislature. But the election’s apparent connection to the abortion referendum in Ohio this fall got people to the polls, especially women and younger voters. “Voters don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the Ohio Constitution. They probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about voting rights,” Torcier told me. Whatever”.
Voters in South Dakota and Arkansas last year rejected similar GOP-led efforts to make ballot initiatives more difficult. But Ohio’s status as a large former swing state that has turned red over the past decade has posed a unique test for Democrats striving to revive their party in the state. “We’ve been beaten up in Ohio a lot,” Dennis Willard, a longtime partisan activist in the state who was a keynote speaker for the No campaign, told me. He said that the Republicans’ attempt to pass this amendment “is proof that they believe they are invincible and we cannot defeat them.”
A defeat of Number 1 would likely pave the way for voters this fall to ensure abortion access in Ohio, and would keep the way open for progressives to enshrine other policies in the state constitution, by simple majority vote, including legalizing marijuana and a higher minimum wage — so that they didn’t. They can get it through a Republican-controlled legislature. Democrats, including Willard, are eyeing an amendment to curb the gerrymandering that helped the GOP cement its majority. They also hope that tonight’s victory will put Ohio back on the political map. “Our victory sends a message to the rest of the country that Ohio has potential,” Willard said. “And winning in November shows people that you can’t write off Ohio anymore.”
But for now, the Republican Party is in no danger of losing control of the state. controls the supermajority in both houses of the legislature; Republican Governor Mike DeWine edged his Democratic opponent by 25 points last year to win a second term. An Ohio Republican, who spoke anonymously before today’s election, told me that the defeat of No. 1 and the expected passage of the Reproductive Rights Amendment in November could actually help the party in the next year, because voters may not believe that access to abortion is at risk. in the state. (The GOP did better last year in blue states like New York and California, where abortion rights weren’t under serious threat.)
And Republicans in Ohio, and in other states where similar ballot measures have failed, now face the limits of their power and the point at which voters will rebel. Will they be disciplined and reset, or will they continue to push the boundaries? It’s a question the Number 1 supporters didn’t want to consider before the votes confirming their defeat were counted. But their critics doubt that the Republicans will change their strategy. “It’s not likely that they will stop right away,” Torser said. “It will take a number of defeats before they probably understand that voters don’t want to be taken advantage of.”
(tags to translation) Ohio voters