Opponents of proposed constitutional change to make it harder to pass amendments talk about strategy
Volunteers with the Ohio League of Women Voters spent their Friday afternoon at a conference facility north of Columbus hanging banners, unpacking mugs, T-shirts, buttons and literature.
It's all part of a strategy to train volunteers statewide on how to oppose the constitutional change voters will likely encounter on an Aug. 8 ballot that, if approved, would make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments.
At the same time, supporters of the measure are preparing for advertising campaigns and collecting endorsements from several business groups.
Back at the league's conference, Jen Miller, the organization's executive director, said hundreds of the group’s delegates will go through training on how to mobilize voters to cast ballots against a proposed change to Ohio’s constitution in August that, if passed, would require a 60% approval threshold for future amendments. Miller said the message for the vote no side will be simple.
"This is a moment in time when voters will have to understand that they are …. that folks are trying to trick them into voting their own rights away in an August election that a lot of people don’t know about,” Miller said.
Volunteers statewide have already been campaigning against the proposal. The league is one of 250 groups that have signed on to oppose the constitutional change. And Miller said all of those groups are mobilizing against the measure. Miller used a simple baseball analogy to explain how the proposed amendment would work .
"If there were two baseball teams and one team got six runs and the other got four, the team with four wins. And that certainly doesn't seem appropriate or fair," Miller said.
Miller said it's not just the higher threshold that would cause a problem for future groups that want to pass constitutional changes. The petition signature gathering process also would be changed.
"The changes to the signature process will make this pretty impossible," she said.
"It's hard to collect signatures in all 88 counties, rather than 44 (as required now). There's confusing language about every elector versus those who have voted in the primary because every elector, the registration numbers change every day, multiple times a day, as people move or turn 18 or they pass away," she explained.
Miller said the proposed elimination of what's known as the "cure period" — when petitioners can now gather extra signatures after submitting petitions — could mean more petitions wouldn't be able to be corrected.
"You could have a campaign where that is short one signature in one county, and there would be no ability for that campaign to fix it," Miller said.
Miller said the gerrymandered legislature makes it even more important that Ohioans protect this constitutional right. She said her group and others that oppose the constitutional change are on the ground at farmers markets, sporting competitions and community events, trying to get the word out.
What those who want the change are doing
Groups that want to pass the constitutional amendment are already working on that effort, too.
Richard Uihlein, an Illinois businessman who owns U-Line and is also an heir to the Schlitz Brewing Co.fortune, has pledged to spend more than a million dollarsfor ads to promote a yes vote on the constitutional change.
Organizations that oppose abortion are also mobilizing their forces to vote yes on the measure, noting that if it passes in August, it would require an abortion amendment that's likely to be on the November ballot to get 60% approval to pass.
Most polling shows Ohioans support elements of the proposed reproductive rights amendment by various margins. Similar efforts in other states around Ohio have passed by more than 50% but fewer than 60%.
Ohio's business community is split on the measure. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association and the Ohio Restaurant Association have all come out in favor of the August issue. That's because it could open the door to groups that want to raise the minimum wage or pass other measures that could hurt Ohio's businesses.Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said they've convinced him to support it.
But the Ohio Business Roundtable has decided to stay neutral on it, and some other business groups oppose it.
As it stands right now, Ohio voters will weigh in on the proposed constitutional change on the statewide ballot on Aug. 8. There are lawsuits in the Republican dominated Ohio Supreme Court, challenging the measure and the validity of the special election itself so the high court could thwart the issue if it wanted to.