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Unlikely partnerships form to oppose proposed Ohio constitutional amendment change

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Dan Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau

A proposal to change the required number of votes for citizen petitioners to get in order to amend the state constitution is attracting a broad range of opponents.

The plan would require citizen-led constitutional amendments to get 60% approval on the ballot in order to pass.

The proposal from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, is uniting groups that don’t always agree.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio and Innovation Ohio, a liberal-leaning think tank, have come out against the plan.

“We have a fundamental, constitutional right to majority rule in our elections.” said Desiree Tims, president and CEO of Innovation Ohio. “Now, instead of a majority of Ohio voters deciding what’s best for our state, this ridiculous proposed alteration to our constitution would allow just 41% of voters to block what the majority wants.”

Joining the League of Women Voters and Innovation Ohio in opposing the plan is The American Policy Roundtable, which tends to advocate for issues considered more conservative-leaning.

“We’re fortunate as Ohioans to have a say in what we put in there or what we remove in there. And we believe in protecting that right,” said Rob Walgate, vice president of The American Policy Roundtable.

Walgate’s organization has fought against issues that have benefited groups financially through constitutional amendments, such as legalizing casinos.

LaRose said changing the standard to a supermajority would cut down on the influence of special interest groups.

“The Ohio Constitution is supposed to serve as a framework of our state government, not as a tool for special interests,” LaRose said, adding that requiring a 60% majority would “promote compromise.”

Walgate argues against the reasoning that raising the vote threshold would discourage special interest groups from pushing for policy.

“If anything, the only thing you’re going to do is empower them to spend more money on the legislature and spend more money in the legislature cause you’re leaving the approval rate for them at 50% when it gets on the ballot via joint resolution,” said Walgate.

Walgate’s group has been pushing for a different change to constitutional amendments by requiring those ballot issues to only appear in the fall, during even-numbered year elections. Those tend to get the largest turnout of voters.

The proposal will take the form of a joint resolution that would need to pass the Ohio House and Ohio Senate with a 60% majority by the end of the year to get on the ballot in May.

The resolution only changes the vote total requirement for citizen-led initiatives and would keep legislature-led initiatives on the ballot at a simple majority threshold.

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.