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Seeing double: Why there have been two Issue 1's this year and why you should know the difference.

Confused about the difference between State Issue 1 from the August Special Election and State Issue 1 from the November General Election? Overwhelmed by all the signs and ads telling you to vote yes or no? It's all intentional. But don't worry -- we're here to help! Read this guide before you cast your ballot this November.

As many of you may know, Ohio Issue 1 will be appearing on Ohio ballots for the November General Election. However, there was also a special election for another Ohio Issue 1 less than three months ago in August. While both initiatives are related to reproductive rights, they are vitally different measures. This article lays out the differences between Issue 1 from August and Issue 1 from this November and why they were assigned the same issue number.

STATE ISSUE 1 [August Special Election]: Elevating the Standards to Qualify for an Initiated Constitutional Amendment and to Pass a Constitutional Amendment

The Issue 1 ballot initiative in August asked Ohio voters to decide whether or not to raise the support that would be required to alter state constitutional amendments in the future. Since 1912, a simple majority has been required (50% +1 vote) to amend the state constitution, but the approval of Issue 1 would have raised the threshold to 60%. During Ohio’s special election on August 8th, though, Ohio voters rejected Issue 1, keeping the simple majority vote requirement in place.

Both before and after the special election, Republican lawmakers admitted that anti-abortion ideals were a driving force behind the Issue’s design. Not only would Issue 1 have given the state government a constitutional right to set abortion laws as it sees fit, but also decisions regarding contraception availability, fertility treatment, birth control, and hormone replacement therapy.

During a June 2023 speech, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose explained that the proposed legislation of Issue 1 in the August election “is 100 percent about keeping radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our Constitution.” And Asheville Republican State Representative Brian Stewart said “After decades of Republicans’ work to make Ohio a pro-life state, the Left intends to write abortion on demand into Ohio’s Constitution. If they succeed, all the work we accomplished by multiple Republican majorities will be undone.”

The reason Republican legislators pushed for the voting threshold increase to 60% specifically is because polls indicate that 58% of Ohioans support abortion rights in Ohio. So if those people were to vote on an abortion rights measure right now, a simple majority of 50% +1 vote could easily be achieved, and the measure would pass. However, requiring that 60% of Ohioans vote for a new abortion amendment (which would be the new requirement via Issue 1) would make passing that amendment more difficult. As many statewide organizers and activists will tell you, it’s already a huge challenge (and expense) to get an issue on the ballot.

Therefore, in August, many anti-abortion voters voted YES on August’s Issue 1, while pro-choice voters voted NO. Issue 1 ended up NOT PASSING (57% yes votes, 43% no votes), thus upholding the status quo of only needing a simple majority to amend the Ohio Constitution. The state’s abortion laws, which currently permits abortions up until 22 weeks of pregnancy, were also unaffected by the special election results (for now).

STATE ISSUE 2 [November General Election]: A Self-Executing Amendment Relating to Abortion and Other Reproductive Decisions

As outlined in our previous blog post, the Issue 1 that we will vote on in November outlines the rights for one to make their own reproductive decisions. This includes not only the right to make decisions about abortion, but also includes contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and pre- and postnatal care. After the overturning of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court case, individual states have been given the ability to decide abortion laws for themselves. Since being given this power, Governor DeWine and Republican legislators in the State House and Senate are working hard to outlaw abortion, even in cases of incest and rape. So many pro-choice nonprofits, collectives and coalitions (such as Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights) have been working hard to make sure that Ohioans would be able to make their own abortion laws. And that is how Issue 1 came to be on our November ballots.

In short, voting YES on Issue 1 would grant Ohioans the right to make their own reproductive decisions and also permanently codify that right in our state Constitution. Voting NO on Issue 1, on the other hand, would remove the power to make reproductive decisions from the individual and place that power in the hands of the government.

Why the shift?

It is important to note that these two issues appearing in such close proximity to each other and sharing the same issue number is not a coincidence–in fact, it is a tactic to intentionally confuse voters. For example, one of the most confusing aspects about these two elections is that pro-choice voters would have mostly likely voted NO on Issue 1 in August and then YES on Issue 1 this November (and vise-versa for anti-abortion voters). Since Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has been vocal about his anti-abortion stance, it is likely he knew it would be confusing when he decided to assign the same number to both abortion-related issues in August and November.

This debate over using confusion as a strategy has even sparked a proposed new law change preventing this from happening again in the future. The law would prevent the same issue number from being assigned twice during the same calendar year.

Amidst these complications around ballot language, Cleveland VOTES remains committed to reducing confusion around voting and the issues by providing accessible information and helpful explanations. For more background on either Issue 1, as well as further discussion around potential ballot confusion, see the resources provided below:

Additional Sources for Readers:


Other sources referenced in this post

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