Republican effort to defeat abortion rights fails spectacularly in Ohio

Yesterday saw a result in Ohio that must give the Republican party the shakes.

We know that Republicans do not represent the majority of people on a whole host of issues. As. a result they have resorted to various measures to advance their agenda even though they are a minority. One means is of course gerrymandering. Whenever they have a majority in state legislatures, they draw electoral maps to ensure that the number of seats they have in state and federal bodies are far greater than the proportion of votes for them would justify. Another is to use all manner of methods to discourage, mislead, and disenfranchise any group of voters that they think might vote Democratic. And of course, we have the two Senators per state provision in the US constitution that has resulted in Republicans having a far greater representation in that body than they deserve, because states with small rural populations tend to vote Republican and they get the same number of Senate seats as states with massively larger populations.

As a result, those who have been sidelined by these measures, knowing that they have a majority on their side on many issues, have started using ballot initiatives to thwart these anti-democratic structural impediments. This has caused alarm in Republican circles and Ohio just saw an effort to thwart these ballot initiatives.

Ohio has a Republican majority but it also has a provision whereby voters can garner petition signatures to put issues of the ballot that can be voted on and passed by a simple majority. Republicans have used this in the past, for example, passing a measure back in 2004 that mandated that marriage must be between a man and a woman. Back in those days marriage equality did not have the support it has now and that ban on same-sex marriage received 61.7% of the votes. That measure was voided when the US Supreme Court ruled that bans against same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

That measure would never pass today because the cultural tide has shifted massively and Republicans are now fearful that the weapon they used to achieve their ends might now be used against them. There is a measure on the Ohio ballot for the November election that would legalize abortion rights in the state. Such ballot measures have passed even in red states like Kansas and Kentucky as well as Michigan, and Ohio Republicans clearly feared that it would pass in their state too.

So what did they do? They used their legislative dominance to rush through a constitutional amendment measure called Issue 1 on the ballot in a special election that was held yesterday that would change rules so that future ballot initiatives would require 60% to pass. They also added another requirement that petitioners would have to gather a certain number of signature from all 88 counties in the state, not just 44 as previously. The measure would also eliminate a 10-day “cure” period for campaigns to gather more signatures if they initially fall short. The idea behind the measures was to ensure that the minority would have veto power over any future ballot initiatives.

In a further effort to stack the deck in their favor, they scheduled the special election for just this single issue and held it in August when elections are almost never held (the last time a vote in Ohio on a constitutional amendment was held in August was back in 1926.) They were clearly hoping for a depressed voter turnout, likely feeling that the anti-abortion zealots were more likely to come out and vote than the rest of the population.

They were wrong, spectacularly so.

With 2.7 million votes counted and 87% of precincts reporting, Issue 1 trailed 57% to 43%, a margin sufficient for the Associated Press the call the race even as more votes have yet to be tabulated.

[T]he pro-Issue 1 campaign generally sidestepped the [abortion] issue, focusing their appeals to voters on arguing a 60% bar would prevent deep-pocketed groups from writing their interests into the state constitution, or reframing the issue as a protection against liberal groups that want to promote progressive views on gender in classrooms.

Both approaches are a tacit acknowledgment that abortion rights are politically popular, and that the abortion-rights amendment is likely to clear 50% in November.

About 38% of registered voters took part, which is high for a special election on just one issue held at an inconvenient time, showing that Republican efforts to suppress turnout were not effective.

The result is widely seen as a victory for abortion rights.

“Today is a huge victory for the people of Ohio. Majority rule still stands in Ohio. The people’s power is preserved because people like you showed up and overwhelmingly defeated Issue 1,” Dennis Willard, a spokesman for One Person One Vote, the coalition that opposed Issue 1, said at an election night rally, according to

“Ohioans’ support for abortion access and reproductive freedom was never in question. From defeating Issue 1 tonight to submitting nearly twice the amount of signatures needed to get a measure protecting abortion access on the ballot in November, Ohio voters have made clear that they will settle for nothing less than reproductive freedom for all,” the abortion rights group Naral Pro-Choice America said in a statement. “Republicans should be ashamed of their efforts to subvert the will of voters.”

The rejection also comes as activists are drafting a constitutional amendment that would strip lawmakers of their power to draw district lines and turn it over to a citizen-led commission instead. Last year, Ohio Republicans ignored repeated orders from the supreme court to draw maps that were not severely distorted to their advantage.

The contest was expected to be a low-turnout midsummer affair, but turnout actually surged during the election. The result is also a blow to Richard Uihlein, a GOP megadonor, who spent millions trying to get the amendment to pass.

“When they forced Issue 1 on to the ballot, they awakened a sleeping giant and unleashed a movement. And that movement isn’t going away tomorrow. It will continue to build and grow and to carry us through to victories in November and beyond. We thank Ohio voters for doing their homework and for going out to vote ‘no’ on Issue 1,” said Rachael Belz, CEO of Ohio Citizen Action, which worked to reject the amendment.

Naral Pro-Choice America may say that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for their skullduggery but Republicans have proven themselves to be utterly shameless, willing to support any lie and use any devious means to achieve their goals. I expect some dead-enders to say that this result too was a fraud that was somehow engineered by George Soros even though all the levers of state power are in Republican hands.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    General elections.
    In Britain, there is increased pressure to abolish the antiquated first-past-the-post system which also dominates in USA.
    The system guarantees disproportionate power for the tories and -- in USA- for the Rrpublicans.

    Former leaders of Labour and the Democrats have opposed changes because they dream of returning to the past glory as being first in a two-party system.

    As the old leaders die off and as the disaster of letting far-right kooks seize power becomes obvious, we see some impetus for change (half a century after most of Europe adopted proportional representation).

  2. birgerjohansson says

    …”engineered by George Soros”.
    It is those shape-changing reptiles, I say! Especially the *jewish* alien reptiles.*

    *there is a man (David Icke) who seriously claims this.

  3. flex says

    I did a little googling and couldn’t find it, but it would be nice to know the price tag for a statewide special election.

    How much did the Ohio voters pay for this boondoggle?

    Oh, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ohio legislature tries something else to challenge the ballot proposal, something to keep it tied up in court over election day. There is still three months left for shenanigans, tomfoolery, and outright assholery.

  4. says

    So, supposedly the Republican legislature and Catholic anti-abortion DeWine are exploring passing a new law before the November abortion amendment vote. The bill would try to soften the existing abortion law by modifying the “heartbeat” provision and clarifying what the “health of the mother” means.

    This way they hope to siphon off enough votes for the amendment so that it wouldn’t pass.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    …So they are bringing it back later.

    I am making a wild guess that voting sites in Black neighborhoods will be reduced, and it will be made illegal to bring water to nig… to voters standing in line for hours.

    And you will need special voter IDs. And you have to bring your birth certificate to get that ID. And show a certificate you donated > 500$ to the local GOP.

  6. John Morales says

    birgerjohansson, so silly.

    …So they are bringing it back later.

    What, the spectacular fail?

    I am making a wild guess that voting sites in Black neighborhoods will be reduced

    Right. So everything that follows this is part of your wild guess.

    And you will need special voter IDs.

    You call that wild?

    (What, no deathmatches? I expect more from wild guesses, that’s pretty tame)

  7. birgerjohansson says

    A “wild” guess would require predicting Putinesque cruelty, my imagination is a bit limited in that regard. Maybe ask Tucker Carlson what he recommends.

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