In Tuesday’s special election, Ohioans will head to the polls to vote on the legislative referendum Issue 1, introduced by Republican Sens. Robert McColley and Theresa Gavarone as SJR 2.
A simple measure with potentially far-reaching implications, Issue 1 would require that state constitutional amendments—all of which must be placed before the voters for approval—receive 60% support, instead of a simple majority, to pass. The measure would also require a geographic component for gathering signatures to place initiatives on the ballot: At least 5% of electors in each county would need to sign on.
Should Issue 1 pass, it would represent a major change to the initiative process that was enshrined in the state constitution in 1912.
With a recent report finding that campaigns supporting and opposing the measure have raised nearly $20 million, Ohio is the latest battleground in a series of statewide political struggles waged over constitutional amendments.
The measure comes just three months before Ohio voters go to the polls in November to vote on an amendment that would add a right to abortion to the state’s constitution. A recent Scripps News/YouGov poll found 58% of Ohioans supported the abortion-rights amendment; another poll found 57% of voters were against Issue 1.
In 2022 alone, three other states put similar measures before their voters with mixed results. Arkansas’s Issue 2 would have raised the threshold to pass most ballot measures to 60% but failed by nearly 20 percentage points. South Dakota’s Amendment C, which also sought to raise the threshold for ballot initiatives to 60% only for initiatives requiring tax increases, failed by an even wider margin, two-to-one. Yet Proposition 132 in Arizona, essentially identical to the failed measure in South Dakota, passed.
Regardless of the outcome of the vote on Issue 1, it’s clear that activists and legislators of all political stripes are recognizing the potential of ballot measures to effect change at the state level.
Harry Katz is an intern in NCSL’s Elections and Restricting Program.