Ohio House lawmakers return to session Thursday with less than two weeks to pass legislation and get it signed by the governor in time to create an August special election asking voters to make it harder to amend the state constitution.
The GOP-led effort aims to raise the bar on amending the constitution before abortion-rights backers can put a an amendment before voters in November. The Republican lawmakers’ hope is that raising the threshold to pass a constitutional amendment in August will set the bar too high for an amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution to pass.
But for that plan to work, the bills that would create an August election and put their proposed amendment on it must both pass by May 10.
The Dayton Daily News, Journal-News and Springfield News-Sun did an online survey of readers to see what they thought of the proposals. Of the more than 300 responses, the overwhelming majority were in favor of the abortion-rights amendment; stood in opposition to the raised 60% threshold; and opposed the August special election.
Here are some excerpts of their responses:
Joe Matis III, Greene County
“Those that support women’s rights have followed the recognized path toward amending Ohio’s Constitution, while those against abortion seek to use any method necessary to squelch the voices of Ohio citizens,” Matis wrote. “I have voted Republican in every election since I was old enough to vote; have conservative views and support mainstream conservative views; and believe in the rights of all people (not just the elite). I also do not believe in abortions (although I do support these in early pregnancy for cases of rape, incest, and other circumstances) but do believe in women’s rights.”
Dennis Jans, Montgomery County
Jans opposes abortion access protections in the constitution, and said he’d approve raising the vote threshold to 60% on constitutional amendments because it’s an achievable benchmark and would settle the debate.
Jans wrote, “60% is not that high, it certainly would be indicative of a majority, whereas a simple majority would still be very (divisive). A simple majority would be too close to call an issue settled.”
Bob Arndt, Warren County
Arndt wrote, “I believe abortion is not about health care, it’s killing a living fetus. There will always be exceptions to secure the health of the mother such as a life-saving event. If compromise is required, the current heartbeat bill would give adequate time for a mother to determine if she needs an abortion.”
Arndt also mentioned the belief that it’s too easy to bypass the Ohio legislature under current law and the idea that the Ohio Constitution ought to be treated as a foundational framework of laws as opposed to a “patchwork of special interest priorities and corporate monopolies.”
Marissa Collier, Butler County
“Including a special election to make it harder for pro-choice citizens to get their voices heard is an overreach of the Ohio government. Anti-choice leaders in Ohio are forcing their opinions and beliefs on voters and not letting voters decide for themselves how abortion access should be handled. I feel like this is also an effort to silence voters in general, so the state can have more power in what laws are passed,” Collier wrote.
Beth Schaeffer, Montgomery County
“The current process to amend the Ohio Constitution is already sufficiently difficult and protects the ability of citizens to initiate ballot issues when the legislature does not act in their behalf,” Schaeffer wrote.