Issue 1 reaction: ‘Question worth asking’ or ‘tremendous overreach’?

Ohio voters rejected Issue 1 Tuesday, denying the state legislature’s plan to make it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution.

The Associated Press declared Issue 1 defeated within two hours of polls closing Tuesday. Officials with the campaign backing Issue 1 later conceded.

The Tuesday vote keeps everything the way it’s been in Ohio since 1912 and puts an end to a monthslong ordeal that would have had vast implications for how often the state legislature — and to a greater degree the citizenry — could have amended the state’s constitution.

Dennis Willard, a spokesperson for the opposition campaign One Person One Vote, called Issue 1 a “deceptive power grab” that was intended to diminish the power of the state’s voters.

“Tonight is a major victory for democracy in Ohio,” Willard told a jubilant crowd at the opposition campaign’s watch party. “The majority still rules in Ohio.”

Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mohamed Al-Hamdani Tuesday night gathered with other “Vote No” supporters, including Dayton Mayor Jeff Mims, City Commissioner Matt Joseph and county Auditor Karl Keith, to watch results.

“This was a tremendous overreach by the legislature to take the power away from the people,” Al-Hamdani said. “… I think everyday Ohioans sent a strong message that despite the Republicans winning the last few elections, that they still want Ohio to remain a civil and open state where everyday Ohioans have a voice.”

Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp. could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

The most immediate impact of Tuesday’s vote is that it confirms that the abortion-rights amendment this November will need only a simple majority in order to pass. If Issue 1 had passed, the abortion-rights amendment — and all future constitutional amendments — would have needed 60% approval from Ohio voters in order to pass.

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, referenced this in a statement Tuesday evening.

“The people of Ohio have spoken. It is now time to turn our attention to November,” Stephens said. “As a 100% pro-life conservative, we must defeat Issue 1 on November 7 to stop abortion from being a part of our state’s constitution.”

Protect Our Constitution reaction

Anti-abortion organizations were just one faction of the coalition in support of Issue 1, officially called Protect Our Constitution. Other backers included groups concerned about future citizen-led amendments related to increasing the minimum wage, new livestock standards, gun control, recreational marijuana and changes to qualified immunity.

The group argued that Issue 1 was about protecting the Ohio Constitution from “out-of-state” — and largely liberal — special interests.

“From its inception, Issue 1 was about giving Ohioans a choice in the structure of their founding document. Tonight, they have made their choice,” said Spencer Gross, Protect Our Constitution campaign spokesperson. “Though these are not the results we hoped for, our coalition looks forward to working with the General Assembly on policy for the betterment of all Ohioans, in a manner that honors and respects the legislative process – not circumvents it.”

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, who co-chaired the Protect Our Constitution campaign, told reporters Tuesday night at an event in Columbus that he was disappointed with the election results, but maintained that Issue 1 was a question worth asking Ohio voters.

“I’m kind of astonished that we got within 10 points, if that’s what it ends up being. It’s an important question and, with the time we had to work with and all of that, I think you’ll probably see the question coming back, maybe at another time,” Huffman said.

Huffman said that the campaign was hurt by a short time-frame — there were 90 days between when the legislature moved Issue 1 to the ballot and the Aug. 8 election day, set by the legislature — and splintered support within the Ohio GOP.

“There were some key folks on our side of the aisle, Republicans especially, who actively opposed this, some pretty vociferously, and then there were key Republicans who simply didn’t support it, who should have been doing so,” Huffman said, naming Republican former Governors John Kasich and Bob Taft and former Attorney General Betty Montgomery among those opposed.

A major “Yes” campaign advocate was Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who extensively campaigned for the issue in the midst of his newly-announced U.S. Senate bid. He blamed spending from “dark money billionaires from California to New York” for the issue’s loss.

“Ohioans will see the devastating impact of this vote soon enough,” LaRose said in a statement. “The radical activists that opposed Issue 1 are already planning amendments to shut parents out of a child’s life-altering medical procedure, force job killing wage mandates on small businesses, prevent law abiding citizens from protecting their families and remove critical protections for our first responders. I’ve said for months now that there’s an assault coming on our constitution, and that hasn’t changed.”

Desiree Tims, a Dayton resident and the president of Innovation Ohio, one of more than 200 organizations against Issue 1, commended Ohio voters for rejecting the legislature-initiated amendment.

“The voters have spoken,” Tims said in a statement after the race had been called. “Since the introduction of this legislation nine months ago, our coalition has grown and stood in lockstep against this blatant power grab. Corrupt politicians and lobbyists tried to pull a fast-one on Ohio, but as we expected, voters did not stand for it. Instead, corrupt politicians should start to listen to their constituents and not out-of-state special interests.”

Jeremy P. Kelley and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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