VOICES: Do not restrict the ability of citizens to directly participate in democracy

The League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues. We are dedicated to protecting voting rights, and the democratic processes that ensure citizens have the ability to participate in making decisions significantly impacting their lives. To that end we are against passage of House Joint Resolution 1 (H.J.R. 1), Senate Joint Resolution 2 (S.J.R. 2) Senate Bill 92 (SB 92) and House Bill 144 (HB 144).

Ballot initiatives have improved the daily lives of Ohio Citizens. Ohio voters have approved pensions for war veterans, and funded school construction. Ohioans voted to raise the minimum wage, provide low-income housing assistance, fund conservation and recreation areas, and invest in local communities, infrastructure improvements, and economic development. The fact is that the vast majority of constitutional amendments that have been passed were initiated by the Legislature. However, some of the best policies in Ohio have been passed for and by the people through their ballot initiatives.

H.J.R. 1 and S.J.R. 2 requiring a 60% vote to pass a proposed amendment is a direct attempt to unreasonably restrict the ability of citizens to directly participate in the process of democracy. It would in fact result in granting greater power to 40% of voters. It would also increase the requirements to even get a citizens proposed amendment on the ballot. Instead of getting signatures from 44 counties, the initiative would require signatures for all 88 counties. The proposed changes are unwarranted.

If H.J.R. 1/S.J.R. 2 pass, Senate Bill 92 and House Bill 144 would call for a special election to be held in August for the sole purpose of voting on the proposed amendment to make it more difficult for any citizen initiated proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution to be placed on the November ballot and all future ballots.

Just last December, the Ohio General Assembly voted to limit August Special Elections. Historically, voter turnout for special elections is extremely low, puts strain on Boards of Elections and poll workers, frustrate voters, and ultimately waste taxpayer dollars. The August 2022 special election, with only 8% voter turnout cost taxpayers approximately $20 million. It is undemocratic and unfair to put an issue of direct democracy on the ballot in a special election when the vast majority of Ohioans will have no idea there is even an election taking place. If H.J.R 1/S.B. 2 lands on the ballot this August, it is likely that well under 10% of voters in Ohio would be deciding whether or not it should be harder to amend the Ohio Constitution. It is too important an issue to be decided by so few.

Former Governors from both parties have expressed their concerns about this initiative and recommend against it. Many other civic and labor groups also oppose this resolution. We urge our Ohio legislators to vote no and maintain our proud tradition of direct democracy.

- The League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area

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