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The August Special Election: Why we’re having one and why you should care.

Why there is an August Special Election this year.

Back In February, Republican legislators introduced House Joint Resolution 1, which would require a vote of at least 60% of the electors to approve any constitutional amendment and to modify the procedures for an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment. The proposed resolution would also:

  • Require petition signatures from at least 5% of the electors of each county in the state, instead of half of the counties;

  • Eliminate the ten-day cure period to gather additional signatures.

The resolution was passed by the General Assembly in late April. And then the state legislature approved another resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 2) on May 10 that would ask Ohio voters to vote on the threshold increase during a special election in August 2023. Secretary of State Frank LaRose approved SJR 2 on the same day (since the election measure passed in the form of a joint resolution, it did not require the governor’s signature to take effect). The Special Election is scheduled for August 8.

Ohio Statehouse

According to the Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, if the proposed constitutional amendment is approved by a majority vote of the electors, it takes effect immediately. However, the new requirements for initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments would first apply to petitions filed on or after January 1, 2024.

You might be wondering why the General Assembly and Frank LaRose are so particularly keen on holding a special election this summer, especially since they banned special elections in December 2022. The Republican legislators involved have made it clear–they are trying to stop recent efforts to get abortion access encoded in the Ohio Constitution. In March, abortion rights supporters won approval to begin collecting signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would guarantee Ohioans’ access to abortion. Lawmakers who are for the threshold increase claim that they’re trying to “prevent out-of-state and special interests, like casinos and marijuana legalization groups, from permanently altering the state constitution.” But in reality they’re just trying to make it A LOT harder to add abortion rights to the Ohio Constitution (and they even have an out-of-state donor themselves).

Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom [Image from ORF Facebook page]

Why participating in this Election is vital.

If the constitution resolution passes in August, it will be harder for citizens to put amendments in front of voters and for voters to pass them. The most immediate issue at hand is abortion rights, but changes to how the Ohio Constitution is amended would affect any effort going forward for citizens to gather signatures, add an amendment to the ballot across the state, and change the constitution.

And abortion won’t be the only issue impacted. For example, in the recent past passionate Ohioans have helped bring about changes to the Ohio Constitution such as banning indoor smoking and raising the minimum wage. Voter-led constitutional amendments are a great Ohio tradition, and they have long been decided by a simple majority vote (50% plus 1 vote). As Jen Miller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, explains, “For more than a century, Ohioans have had the freedom to use ballot initiatives to pass policies that benefit us, when politicians aren't representing our needs and interests. If this amendment passes in August, it would make constitutional ballot initiatives nearly impossible - meaning less power for voters and more power for corrupt politicians.”

Furthermore, Republican lawmakers and Secretary of State LaRose are essentially asking us to give up the power of our majority vote and replace it with minority rule. That would mean in the future, 41% of voters could stop citizen ballot initiatives that 59% of Ohioans support (which is currently the case with abortion rights).

So we stand with the many organizations, Ohioans, and former + current public officials who have spoken up against HJR 1/SJR 2. We are not being dramatic when we say this resolution and special election are meant to weaken democracy. One person should equal one vote. And we hope you will join us at the polls on August 6 to let these legislators know that fair elections and majority rule are here to stay.

Ohioans protesting HJR 1/SJR 2 [Image from Common Cause Ohio]

How to prepare for the August Special Election.

1. Make sure your voter registration information is up to date.

It’s always good to check your voter registration status (even if you’re *sure* you’re registered) in the months leading up to an election. Factors that can change your status include moving (even a few blocks), a name change, and/or citizenship status change. Ohio also recently purged thousands of people from the state voter rolls. You can check here to see if you’ve been purged. If so, you’ll need to re-register.

The deadline to register for the August 8 Special Election is July 10, 2023.

2. Have a voting plan in place.

Since the new Ohio voter ID law took effect this past April, it’s extra important to have a voting plan in place for every election you vote in this year. You can read more about the current voting ID requirements for our state here. If you do not have one of the forms of identification listed, VoteRiders provides free voter ID assistance.

You will also need to decide when, where, and how you will vote. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has created a helpful timeline of voting deadlines for your reference:

If you want to vote by mail, you’ll need to request an absentee ballot. Either visit your local Board of Elections website and request one there, or follow these instructions for requesting a mail-in ballot from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. If you’d prefer to vote in person early or on Election Day, make sure you know the location of your local Board of Elections or polling place. Also make note of the voting hours for the day you plan to vote.

3. Apply to be a poll worker.

Because this new proposal is so unpopular among Ohioans, election employees are anticipating a significantly greater turnout for the August Special Election than in previous years. This means that they are running into some challenges getting ready for an election that they didn’t see coming. We can help ease the burden on local boards of elections by applying to be poll workers for the Special Election. Here is the link to apply for Cuyahoga County.

4. Tell people in your network about the August Special Election (and make sure they’re registered, too).

The legislators who are trying to pass this resolution in August chose this time of the year on purpose: they know that historically August elections in Ohio have low turnout, and they’re hoping they can quietly change constitutional law without most people knowing. So we need to be vocal and let the people in our lives know about the upcoming election and also what’s at stake if we don’t vote. Tell your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors that the Ohio Constitution and reproductive rights are on the line.

"Ballot initiatives are currently our best opportunity to materially improve people’s lives across Ohio. We need people to show up and Vote No on August 8th to protect majority rule and ensure that special interests and corrupt politicians don't make it extremely difficult to pass abortion access, fix redistricting, raise Ohio's minimum wage, pass voting rights reforms, and so much more. This is not a drill — everyone needs to talk to their family, friends, and neighbors to Vote No on Issue 1 in August. We have the opportunity to win this fight for our democracy and to carry that momentum into wins in 2024, and that starts by mobilizing our networks this summer and turning out in August."
Gavin DeVore Leonard, Co-Director, Ohio Voice

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