Ohio rejects "Issue 1" in huge win for abortion rights!

Columbus, Ohio - Voters in Ohio on Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have made amending the state's constitution more difficult in a case viewed nationwide as a test of conservatives' power to oppose liberal causes such as abortion rights.

Ohioans celebrate the defeat of Issue 1, a Republican-backed measure that would have made it harder to amend the state constitution, an initiative aimed at helping defeat a November referendum to protect abortion access.
Ohioans celebrate the defeat of Issue 1, a Republican-backed measure that would have made it harder to amend the state constitution, an initiative aimed at helping defeat a November referendum to protect abortion access.  © Adam Cairns/USA Today Network via REUTERS

The "Issue 1" special election – which united anti-abortion groups with opponents of a minimum wage hike – was centered on proposals to increase the bar to pass constitutional amendments to 60% of the vote from a simple majority.

Tuesday's vote was seen as an attempt to thwart a referendum scheduled for November on codifying abortion rights into Ohio's constitution.

The issue itself only needed a simple majority to pass.

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The Associated Press called the race with the "no" votes leading by more than 350,000 with 90% of the expected vote tallied. Late results showed the measure losing by 13 percentage points.

"Today, Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state's constitutional amendment process," President Joe Biden said in a statement.

"This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters' voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won," he added.

Abortion rights activists also cheered the outcome.

"Great news! Ohioans showed up to the polls and rejected the opposition's attempts to undermine democracy and restrict reproductive freedom," head of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson posted on Twitter, rebranded as X.

"Abortion is on the ballot this November. Mark your calendars now, Ohio!" she added.

Voter turnout high with abortion rights and minimum wage on the line

Volunteers help voters cast their ballots during a special election for Issue 1 at the Schiller Recreation Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Volunteers help voters cast their ballots during a special election for Issue 1 at the Schiller Recreation Center in Columbus, Ohio.  © Adam Cairns/USA Today Network via REUTERS

Republicans were looking to replicate the strategy in other states if Tuesday's vote had been successful. Media outlets reported spending from mostly out-of-state political groups on both sides totaling around $35 million.

After the 2022 Supreme Court decision ending nationwide protection for abortion rights, Ohio introduced a six-week ban that has been held up in the courts.

But 58% of likely Ohio voters support enshrining abortion rights in the constitution, according to polls released last month by USA Today/Suffolk University and in June by Scripps News/YouGov.

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The League of Women Voters of Ohio called the referendum measure, proposed by Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature, an "attempt to strip away the power of everyday people."

Business groups came out in support of "Issue 1" because it would complicate future attempts at raising the minimum wage, with a referendum already scheduled for November 2024 on an increase from $10.10 an hour to $15.

A special election at the height of summer would normally attract a relatively low turnout, but nearly 600,000 Ohioans had already voted early by the end of last week, according to the Columbus Dispatch. There were fewer than 150,000 early votes for an August special election last year.

Last year, voters in Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan voted to protect abortion rights by a simple majority. None of the votes achieved 60% support.

Cover photo: Adam Cairns/USA Today Network via REUTERS

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