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Issue 1 falls: Ohio voters reject raising voter approval threshold to amend constitution

Precinct captain in Upper Arlington reporting voting as steady today.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Precinct captain in Upper Arlington reporting voting as steady today.

Ohio voters have rejected Issue 1, the proposed constitutional change that would make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments. With around a million votes counted, the Secretary of State's unofficial results showed the issue failing 2-1.

This means an amendment that could enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution in November will need to pass by a simple majority, not 60%.

Several news organizations called the contest less than an hour after the polls closed. The AP called the race just before 9 p.m.

Unofficial results showed turnout was 38.54%, with more than 3 million ballots counted. That was higher than anticipated. All but one of 11 Ohio counties with live Election Day trackers showed turnout above 30%, and three had turnout over 40%.

Some Republicans officeholders said they expected the attention on Issue 1 would drive up turnout. But the weekend before early voting began, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a primary backer of Issue 1, said he "wouldn’t be surprised" if turnout was similar to last year's legislative primary. The turnout in that August 2022 vote was 7.9% statewide.

Early voting boosted turnout numbers. Nearly 700,000 Ohioans cast early ballots, which is twice as many as voted early in the contested primaries for U.S. Senate and governor in May 2022. And it was five times higher than the total turnout last August. There's been no comment from LaRose on turnout.

There were problems late in the day as voters were reportedly turned away in Stark County because of a shortage of cards for touchscreen machines. Some voters had to use paper ballots. Voters were urged to stay in line if they hadn't been able to vote.

The day started with a few problems. Nazek Hatasha, policy affairs manager for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said some poll workers around Ohio turned away voters over confusion about a photo I.D. requirement. That was also part of the law that banned most August special elections.

"They had the proper I.D. but are being turned away with a driver's license that has not expired but doesn't have a current address," Hatasha said.

Hatasha said there was a problem with signage for curbside voting at many polling places so voters who needed assistance were confused about where to park or how to get that service. And she said there were issues with lines at some polling places in some urban areas, especially where precincts had been moved or consolidated.

It was known going into this election that some areas would be short on poll workers, since the state said it hadn't reached its poll worker goal. But Hatasha said throwing in the new law made it especially difficult.

"Anyone who has ever been a poll worker, whether you are experienced or you are new, you really need a greater degree of training," Hatasha said.

Mike West, manager of the outreach department for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said there were challenges in getting enough poll workers for this election. And he said new voter laws and new voting machines also made things tough.

"At a couple of locations, it took them a few minutes to get the scanners up and running because these are brand new scanners so all of the procedures are new for our poll workers," West said.

West said the scanner problems didn't cause any delays and all of the scanners were working properly. Summit County had similar scanner problems, but those were handled early in the day.

This August special election was set in May by supermajority Republican state lawmakers concerned about the coming amendment on abortion rights, though some said later it was about other issues as well. Some of those lawmakers just months ago approved a law eliminating most August special elections because of low turnout and high costs. But when lawmakers couldn't pass a resolution in time to put the constitutional change on the May primary ballot, they turned their eyes to August. Following a lawsuit by opponents, the Republican-dominated Ohio Supreme Court ruled the election could proceed because the new law didn't apply to lawmakers putting a constitutional amendment before voters.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.