Republicans lost big on abortion votes. Now they are trying to change the rules

Republicans, perhaps coming to terms with the unpopularity of their anti-abortion policies, seem to be resorting to a new playbook. Ohio Republicans want to make it more difficult to change the state constitution through a ballot initiative, which abortion advocates say is a blatant attempt to block voters’ efforts to enshrine reproductive protection in states’ rights.

“Ohio’s constitution has been far too susceptible to the efforts of outside groups and special interests seeking to change the people’s constitution to further their own ends,” said the Republican representative. Brian Stewart said, according to The Columbus mission. With the support of Frank LaRose, Stewart, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, has introduced a resolution that would require a supermajority of 60% of Ohioans — as opposed to the current threshold of 50% plus one vote — to amend the state constitution.

The push comes on the heels of several successful ballot measures protecting abortion rights. Voters in Michigan and Vermont enshrined the right to abortion in their state constitutions. Californians went further, expanding constitutional protections to include birth control. Even in the red states of Montana and Kentucky, voters shot down ballot measures that would have eroded abortion protections. Over the summer, Kansans also voted against a measure that would have done the same thing.

LaRose denied that his proposal is about abortion, reportedly shipping, and said, “If someone thinks their favorite issue can’t get 60% of the vote, maybe they should think twice about proposing it as a constitutional amendment.” Stewart added that the intent of the resolution was to keep “special interests” who “buy their way onto the ballot” in check. It is somewhat ironic that the higher 60% threshold would not apply to the processing of this amendment, which would also have to be submitted to the people in order for it to be enacted.

The Fairness Project, an organization that supports progressive voting, was quick to condemn the effort. “Let’s be clear about what this announcement means: Ohio Republicans are planning a coup next year to take away voters’ power at the ballot box,” the executive said. Kelly Hall said in a statement. “They know the voters don’t agree with them on these issues, so they’re changing the rules.”

Even LaRose’s own statement regarding the supermajority proposal contradicts the claim that the current threshold has left Ohio vulnerable to capture by special interests. As he noted, of the 16 petition-based amendments that have been proposed in the state since 2000, only five have passed. And abortion is a particularly controversial issue in the Buckeye State. Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, signed one of the strictest abortion bans in 2019, which already went into effect Row v. Wad Fell. The so-called heartbeat bill makes abortions illegal after about six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or ectopic pregnancy, but has since been blocked by the courts. According to delivery, Abortion rights advocates in the state are now considering whether to put the issue on the ballot in 2023 or 2024. Ohio became prominent in the abortion debate shortly after the fall Roe when, given the severity of the ban, a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to cross the state line into Indiana to get an abortion. Hall called out “extremist Ohio officials” for “wasting no time in shutting down the voting process as a way for voters to secure their reproductive freedoms.”

Republicans this year filed supermajority proposals similar to those LaRose and Stewart are pushing, in Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota, trying to pass supermajority thresholds for ballot measures. They failed. In Arizona, however, the 60% threshold was passed for voting.

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