WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, April 19, the Ohio Senate voted to pass Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would raise the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from 50% to 60% of the vote, making it more difficult for Ohio voters to amend the state constitution. The bill passed 26 to 7, receiving the necessary three-fifths vote required for a joint resolution. S.J.R. 2 now heads to the Ohio House which also must pass the resolution on a three-fifths vote. Earlier today, an Ohio House committee advanced a parallel resolution, House Joint Resolution 1.
S.J.R. 2 mirrors a previous House resolution that was proposed at the end of 2022, but failed to advance further in the legislative process. If passed by the Legislature and approved by the voters, S.J.R. 2 would require future amendments to the state constitution to earn 60% of the vote to be enacted.
When first proposing the resolution in 2022, Republican sponsors directly linked the impetus for the resolution to ongoing efforts to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution and limit partisan gerrymandering. If enacted, S.J.R. 2 would make those efforts much less likely to succeed. As such, the resolution is part of a broader trend of Republican leaders taking steps to prevent the voters from enacting policy changes over their wishes.
During a committee hearing yesterday, two restrictions were amended into S.J.R. 2, according to the ACLU of Ohio: raising the number of required signatures to secure an initiative on the ballot from 5% of all voters in 44 counties to 5% of voters in all 88 counties in the state and eliminating the cure period for petitioners to submit additional signatures if they fall below the required number.
Today, the Senate is also looking to pass Senate Bill 92, which would allow a special August 2023 election solely for the purpose of approving this resolution. The August election would likely have very low turnout, potentially making it easier for the resolution to be approved. Placing the resolution before the voters in August would also allow legislators to ensure S.J.R. 2 is voted on before an abortion rights amendment goes before the voters in November 2023 or sometime in 2024.
The measure will need to pass the Legislature by May 10 to go before Ohio voters in August.