Ohio Voters Sue Over August Election on Resolution To Restrict Ballot Measures
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, May 12, individual Ohio voters and One Person One Vote, a coalition representing Ohio voters, filed a complaint in the Ohio Supreme Court challenging recently passed Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would increase the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from 50% to 60%. As laid out by the resolution, Ohio voters will vote on whether or not to adopt this higher threshold in a special election set for Aug. 8, 2023.
If approved by Ohio voters, S.J.R. 2 would make it more difficult to amend the state constitution, thereby hampering efforts to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution and limit partisan gerrymandering. S.J.R. 2 is part of a broader trend across the country wherein Republican leaders are restricting voters’ ability to directly enact popular policy changes at the ballot box.
While the resolution itself is being widely criticized for being undemocratic, the truncated timeline it sets for voting on the threshold change ahead of the November general election is also under fire. In their complaint brought against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), the voters ask the state Supreme Court to remove S.J.R. 2 from the Aug. 8, 2023 special election ballot. “The General Assembly’s attempt to put the Amendment before the people in a low-turnout August special election is unlawful,” the complaint reads. The complaint notes that the Legislature would have needed to enact a statute specifically authorizing the Aug. 8 election for the purpose of submitting S.J.R. 2 to Ohio voters, but it failed to do so.
The voters allege that Ohio law prescribes an “unambiguous schedule” for elections, specifically limiting special elections on constitutional amendments, such as S.J.R. 2, to either take place during general elections in November or during primary elections in March or May. Ohio law does not permit “statewide August elections for any purpose,” the complaint emphasizes.
What’s more, the Ohio Legislature explicitly banned August elections (except in very limited circumstances) in its omnibus election law that was enacted earlier this year. Ironically, the Legislature did so at the behest of LaRose who stated that “August special elections generate chronically low turnout because voters aren’t expecting an election to occur. This is bad news for the civic health of our state.”
The Ohio voters ultimately ask the state Supreme Court to prohibit LaRose from holding an allegedly unlawful special election regarding S.J.R. 2 on Aug. 8, 2023.