Ohio Voters Reject Ballot Measure Seen as Test Over Abortion Rights

Ohio voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure seen as a test over abortion rights a year after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.

(Bloomberg) — Ohio voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure seen as a test over abortion rights a year after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.

The question known as Issue 1, the only measure on the statewide special election ballot, was defeated by a margin of 57% to 43% with almost all of the vote counted, according to Ohio’s secretary of state. 

The issue would have increased the bar to pass constitutional amendments in Ohio — including a measure on the November ballot to enshrine abortion rights  — to 60% from a simple majority. It also would have made it much harder for future citizen-initiated amendments to reach the ballot.

Critics said the proposed abortion-rights amendment prompted the Republican-led state legislature to put Issue 1 to a vote in a special election, which typically has a lower turnout, in an attempt to make it more difficult to pass the amendment and future measures.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and other groups supported the issue to stop amendments proposed on issues such as raising the minimum wage, legalizing recreational marijuana and establishing new livestock care standards.

Read More: Ohio Vote Spurs Business Groups to Ally With Abortion Foes

Supporters said they were trying to stop wealthy special interests from getting their agendas embedded in the state’s Constitution rather than having them go before lawmakers. But opponents including the state’s Democratic Party and labor groups said Republicans were trying to weaken democracy by making it practically impossible for citizens to initiate constitutional changes.

“The defeat of Issue 1 will go down in history as a victory for our state and democracy,” Ohio Senate Democratic Leader Nickie Antonio said in a statement. “Ohioans saw through the despicable attempt to silence voters and chose to preserve majority rule.”

The outcome in Ohio — a state that has become increasingly Republican and voted twice overwhelmingly for Donald Trump — follows anti-abortion referendums losing last year in Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, while abortion-rights measures passed in California, Michigan and Vermont. 

Last year’s Supreme Court ruling that revoked federal protections for the right to an abortion aided Democrats in last year’s midterm elections and they have made it a centerpiece of their 2024 campaign strategy.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement that the results of the Ohio ballot issue showed “Republicans’ deeply unpopular war on women’s rights will cost them” in future elections.

Yet veteran Ohio Republican strategist Mark Weaver, who supported Issue 1, said an August special election is not a good proxy for a general election when more people will vote and “I imagine the pro-life side will rally to spend more money to get their voters out.”

Last year, voters in Arkansas and South Dakota also rejected proposals to raise requirements to pass ballot measures. In Arizona, voters narrowly approved changes pushed by the business community that raise requirements for ballot questions that increase taxes. 

(Updates late tally in second paragraph)

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