Analysis: The Controversial Ohio Issue 1 and its Potentially Far-Reaching Impact

Voters in Ohio will have a crucial decision to make on Tuesday, as they determine the fate of an amendment called Issue 1. This seemingly mundane amendment has garnered significant attention and controversy due to its potential implications for a future vote on establishing a state-wide right to abortion. If Issue 1, which aims to raise the minimum voter threshold to 60% from the current bare majority, receives approval, it could effectively block the abortion-rights amendment by falling short of the newly raised threshold.

Issue 1 is the sole question on Ohio’s 8 August special election ballot and seeks to revise the process of approving constitutional amendments. If passed, it would increase the approval threshold from 50% to 60%. Additionally, it would make it more challenging for petitioners to initiate amendments, requiring signatures from 5% of eligible voters in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, twice the current number. Over the past 111 years, only 19 out of 71 proposed measures have successfully passed the 50% benchmark, emphasizing the difficulty of amending Ohio’s constitution.

Supporters of Issue 1, including Ohio’s Republican-led legislature and Republican secretary of state Frank LaRose, argue that it aims to safeguard the state constitution from external financial interests. They perceive constitutions as protectors of widely held fundamental rights and beliefs rather than controversial issues with minimal support. However, opponents, comprising a diverse and bipartisan coalition, contend that Issue 1 is an intentional effort to impede the abortion amendment. The coalition asserts that polls indicate nearly 58-59% of Ohioans support the abortion-rights amendment, and consequently, Issue 1 is a tactical maneuver to thwart the amendment by placing it just beyond reach.

These suspicions were seemingly confirmed when LaRose stated at a private event in May, “I’m pro-life. I think many of you are as well. This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.” Although polls suggest that the abortion-rights amendment, which preserves access to abortion until fetal viability (around 24 weeks), would likely secure a majority, reaching the high 60% threshold would prove challenging. In the absence of constitutional protection, Ohio’s Republican-controlled state legislature would probably advance additional anti-abortion legislation. Currently, a six-week ban is temporarily suspended due to an ongoing legal challenge.

The implications of Ohio’s August election extend beyond abortion rights. Surrounding states, such as Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, where access to abortion has already been curtailed, would experience profound consequences if Ohio bans abortion. Moreover, experts believe that the outcome of this election could spill over into the state’s US Senate election next year, potentially affecting the candidacy of Frank LaRose.

In summary, Ohio’s Issue 1, which may initially appear unremarkable, carries substantial significance and controversy. Its approval could hinder the abortion-rights amendment by raising the voter threshold. Proponents argue that it safeguards the state constitution from external interests, while opponents believe it intentionally obstructs the abortion amendment. The outcome of the August election could have far-reaching consequences for neighboring states, ongoing legal challenges, and potentially impact Ohio’s US Senate race in the future.