Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ohio put a moratorium on the August elections. Then the GOP put together a plan that could help preserve the abortion ban.


Earlier this year, the Ohio Republican made a law He effectively cleared August’s special elections off the state’s calendar, telling him an overly costly, low-turnout effort that wasn’t worth the trouble.

But then, earlier this month, Ohio state legislative Republicans went ahead and scheduled an election for August this year that could make it harder for abortion-rights supporters to amend the state constitution later.

From ballots currently cast for the August vote Limit 60% of the support needed for future state constitutional amendments. For the time being, a majority is needed.

And while not explicitly mentioning abortion, abortion-rights groups argue they are designed to make it more difficult for voters to pass a proposed amendment, which is set to be on the ballot in November. which would enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution.

It’s an apparent contradiction that caught the attention of activists — and now they’re suing to nullify this August’s special election.

“This election is illegal,” said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, president and founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, a group that has led efforts to support the November ballot measure legalizing abortion. “Based on the decisions made earlier this year, there is no basis for holding this election other than individuals with personal agendas to prevent the abortion rights movement from succeeding.”

The lawsuit hinges on the fact that the newly scheduled August special election would appear to violate laws signed into law by the Republican government in January, which eliminated the scheduling of nearly all August special elections.

Supporters of that legislation – including DeWine and Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose – said holding the August special election would not cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“These unnecessary off-cycle elections are not good for taxpayers, election officials or the health of our state’s citizens. It’s time for him to go,” said LaRose, who has said he is likely to run for the US Senate in 2024. testified during legislative hearings late last year.

But earlier this month, Ohio Republicans passed a joint resolution setting a special election for Aug. 8 to raise the threshold for future ballot measures and to impose higher signature-gathering thresholds on measures before voters.

“This is essentially a brazen, cynical, power grab,” said Emma Olson Sharkey, a lawyer with Elias Law Group, a Democratic-aligned firm challenging this summer’s special election in Ohio. “They’re trying to change their attitude about it now, based on the fact that it’s what they want to happen.”

David Fox, a partner in the same firm who filed the lawsuit on behalf of “one person one vote”, said, “There is no way to reconcile these arguments.” Organization It’s drumming up votes to vote “no” in the August election.

Raising the threshold to pass any future constitutional amendment would be a big change from Ohio, where a simple majority has been required since 1912.

four former Ohio governors, Involved Republicans John Kasich and Bob Taft, and five former Ohio attorneys general, Involved Republicans Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro have said they oppose the measure to raise the limits.

Republican supporters of the newly passed measures – which, because they were adopted through a joint resolution, did not require the governor’s signature – have said They will protect the state constitution from attempts to change it funded by “special interests” outside the state.

GOP supporters of both the January measure eliminating the August special elections and the latest measure scheduling this summer did not address the contradiction when asked by NBC News.

“While we do not comment on litigation or potential litigation, under Ohio’s constitution, the general assembly has sole authority to determine the time, place and manner of the election,” LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols said in a statement. “We are confident that the elections professionals who run our county election boards will lead to another safe, accessible and accurate election for Ohio voters.”

State Representative Brian Stewart, who sponsored the latest joint resolution but who also supported the January bill, said in a statement that there was no contradiction. He attributed his support for January’s bill to concerns over costs and voting for smaller, local elections in August.

“That concern doesn’t exist in the context of a statewide election that will take place in every community in Ohio,” Stewart said.

Devin, for his part, said that he supports Raising the threshold required an amendment to the state constitution, although his spokesman told NBC News that the schedule for the August election was passed without requiring the governor’s signature.

“The Ohio General Assembly generally has the power to set election dates under the Ohio Constitution. Both the election bill and this separate resolution can be viewed as the Ohio General Assembly exercising that power. Our office is a party to the resolution. Wasn’t,” Devine spokesman Dan Tierney said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the suit (as well as another filed by Elias Law Group alleging that the language on the ballot for the August 8 election was intentionally designed to mislead voters), was granted an expedited process by the Ohio Supreme Court. Has been.

The Ohio Supreme Court — on which conservatives have a 4-3 advantage — is expected to decide on the matter quickly.

If the August election is held as scheduled and voters pass the threshold measure, 60% of voters would be needed to pass a proposed amendment in November to ensure abortion rights. If it fails in August, it will only need a majority.

The proposed November amendment is designed to counteract Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill,” which stuck in place Soon after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade the last summer. The law effectively bans most abortions – but includes exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman and in cases of ectopic pregnancy – although it stays temporarily blocked by a state judge.

Pro-abortion rights groups, however, aren’t holding their breath for a favorable ruling from the state’s high court and are continuing their organizing on a “vote no” effort for the August ballot.

“what I think [state] Should the Supreme Court declare it illegal? Absolutely. I think it would be the right thing to do,” Azevedo said. “But I don’t believe they will.”

“So we have to be prepared to fully support ‘Vote No’ in August,” she said.