Although the “Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment” did not pass in the Ohio House and Senate prior to the February 1st deadline to be on May’s primary election ballot, state lawmakers may reinstate an August special election to consider the amendment.
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 1 sponsored by State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) aims to alter the process of how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments. Issues proposed by initiative petitions need to meet a 50 percent voting threshold to amend the Constitution. Under this proposal, these issues would need to meet a 60 percent threshold.
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) indicated that his caucus is considering placing the question on the ballot in a statewide August special election.
“We have a lot of special elections in different times other than May and November. Of course, we’ve eliminated the August election as a recurring election, but we’re going to certainly look at that,” Huffman said.
Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill (HB) 458 into law earlier this year, drastically altering the state’s election laws, including requiring a photo ID and eliminating August elections.
In HJR 1’s first hearing in the Ohio House Constitutional Resolutions Committee on Wednesday, Stewart said it would cost approximately $20 million to hold a special election in August. The same cost as it was in 2022.
“The cost would be the same for any other statewide election that we’ve had in the state of Ohio,” Stewart said.
Stewart introduced the amendment last year in a lame-duck session and attempted to expedite it for the May ballot.
Although Stewart said there was ample time to get it on the May ballot, it did not pass in the Ohio House and Senate before the February 1st deadline.
Stewart re-introduced the legislation last month with two substantive changes from the prior version. Instead of just 44 counties, the revised version would require signatures from all 88. They also eliminated the cure period for constitutional amendments, allowing citizen-led organizations to gather additional signatures if their initial batch doesn’t meet the requirements to make the ballot.
HJR 1 was not indicated as a priority of House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), which some have said is a direct result of the “deal” he made with the Democrats to secure the Speakers seat.
Lawmakers selected Stephens as the new Speaker of the Ohio House to succeed State Representative Bob Cupp (R-Lima). The choice came despite the Republican Caucus‘ previous selection in November of State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) as the new speaker.
Although the GOP caucus voted for Merrin as Speaker of the House in December, Stephens fought with the Democrats to collect votes and garner a win.
According to State Representative Marilyn John (R-Shelby), to obtain the Democratic votes necessary to win the Speakers seat, Stephens made a deal with the Democrats and is not to be trusted. John claims that “killing” the Constitution Protection Amendment” was part of that deal.
The issue is a top priority for more conservative Republicans such as Merrin.
“We have repeatedly asked and pressed to strengthen our constitution and not allow it to be hijacked by left-wing socialists by requiring a 60 percent threshold, and we’ve been blocked for doing that,” Merrin said.
Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) President Aaron Baer has continuously urged Ohio lawmakers to move quickly to pass the joint resolution to increase the threshold to amend the Constitution to 60 percent.
“We also cannot allow liberal and pro-abortion special interests to attempt to buy their way into Ohio’s Constitution. Every pro-life lawmaker must move quickly to pass Representative Brian Stewart and Leader of House Republicans Derek Merrin’s Joint Resolution to increase the threshold to amend the Constitution to 60 percent,” Baer said.
To put HJR 1 on the ballot in August, lawmakers must pass it by May and schedule a statewide special election.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “People Voting” by Danny Howard. CC BY-SA 2.0.