WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, June 12, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the Ohio Ballot Board and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) to rewrite parts of the ballot language for Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would increase the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from 50% to 60%.
This decision stems from a lawsuit filed in late May by a group of Ohio voters and the group One Person One Vote arguing that the adopted ballot title and ballot language for the proposed amendment is inaccurate and misleading to voters in violation of the Ohio Constitution and state law.
In particular, the petitioners alleged that the ballot’s title — “ELEVATING THE STANDARDS TO QUALIFY FOR AND TO PASS ANY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT” — is inaccurate.
In today’s order, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners in part, holding that “the word ‘any’ is likely to mislead voters” since it “could give voters the false impression that the proposed amendment would make it more difficult to qualify all proposed constitutional amendments for the ballot.” In reality, the proposed amendment — if passed — would only increase the ballot-qualification standards for citizen-led “initiative petitions but not for constitutional amendments proposed by the General Assembly or at a constitutional convention.”
The petitioners also claimed that the use of the word “elevating” in the title was not “impartial and will create prejudice in favor of the Amendment” since it “implies that the standards to amend the Constitution are currently too low.” The Ohio Supreme Court rejected that argument, thus leaving the word “elevating” in the ballot title.
In terms of the ballot language, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners that the “ballot language does not accurately describe the number of elector signatures required from each county” and currently “overstates the number of signatures that would be needed to qualify an initiative petition for the ballot.” In turn, the court ordered the defendants to provide a “definition of ‘electors’ underlying the petition-signature requirements in the proposed amendment, including how many signatures would be required to qualify an initiative petition for the ballot.”
The court declined to accept the petitioners’ argument that the ballot language does not explicitly indicate that the amendment strips the ability of Ohioans to fix defective initiative petitions.
This decision is a victory for Ohio voters since the ballot language and title will have to be rewritten to be more clear. Aside from this case, another lawsuit filed by One Person One Vote regarding S.J.R. 2 is currently pending in the Ohio Supreme Court. That lawsuit asks the state Supreme Court to prohibit LaRose from holding a special election on Aug. 8, 2023 regarding S.J.R. 2, alleging that it is against state law to hold a statewide election in August.