Ohio Ballot Board approves language for proposed change to citizen amendments

On a 3-2 Republican party-line vote, the Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday approved wording for a ballot initiative that would change how citizens can amend the state constitution.

The approval came over objections from Democrats who say the language is inaccurate and deceptive ahead of a special Aug. 8 election for the issue.

Voters will decide whether to require a 60% approval vote for any proposed constitutional amendment instead of the current 50%-plus-one vote needed.

To pass, however, State Issue 1 needs only a 50%-plus-one majority.

“Democracy means the people get to choose. But you can’t choose if you don’t know what the choice is. Ohioans deserve to make a free and fair choice at the ballot box. But Secretary of State [Frank] LaRose is attempting to trick them by using inaccurate, misleading and deceitful ballot language,” Rep. Elliot Forhan, D-South Euclid, said.

Forhan is one of two Democratic members of the board.

The ballot will say:

A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.

The proposed amendment would:

Require that any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Ohio receive the approval of at least 60 percent of eligible voters voting on the proposed amendment.Require that any initiative petition filed on or after January 1, 2024 with the Secretary of State proposing to amendment the Constitution of the State of Ohio be signed by at least five percent of the eligible voters of each county in the state.Specify that additional signatures may not be added to an initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State on or after January 1, 2024 proposing to amend the Constitution of the State of Ohio

If passed, the amendment shall be effective immediately.

Democrats argue leaving out language that would tell voters the current law goes against standards set by the Ohio Supreme Court over the last several decades.

“The ballot issue title by law must be a ‘true and impartial’ statement of the issue,” Forhan said. “The ballot language, according to the constitution and long-standing case law, must inform voters of what the issue does because voters have the right to know what they’re voting on. The title and language pushed through by the secretary of state today for this undemocratic issue fails to meet these long-standing legal requirements. Voters deserve better and, together, we will demand better at the ballot box.”

None of the three Republican members of the board responded to Democratic concerns during Thursday’s meeting.

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