Thanks to work from 170 groups and citizen pressure last year, we were able to defeat HJR6 − a lame-duck proposal that aimed to make it harder for citizens to amend the Ohio Constitution. GOP Rep. Brian Stewart pushed lawmakers to ask voters whether the state should increase the ballot threshold for amending the constitution from a simple majority to 60%.
Now, we face the reintroduction of this bill, this time as HJR1.
And it’s worse; not only would the bill increase the threshold needed to pass Constitutional Amendments from a simple majority of 50% to a super majority of 60%, but it would also make it far more difficult to place an issue on the ballot, requiring signatures to be gathered from all 88 Ohio counties, instead of the previous 44. Further, it would eliminate the second chance (cure period) that petitioners have to gather signatures if they initially fall short. If passed, HJR1 would make it nearly impossible for true citizen-led amendments to be successful, effectively hoarding power for the state legislature and well-funded corporate interests who could afford to bankroll these campaigns.
It is likely that HJR1 will move through the legislature quickly, and we must not wait to act. It will erode our rights at the ballot if we do not act immediately.
Please visit our action page to write your legislators today!
Why is this happening now?
Upon first glance, there is no justifiable reason, after over 100 years, to suddenly make this already challenging process even harder. Since 1912, Ohioans from across the political spectrum have utilized the right to amend our Constitution via the petition process. We are proud to live in a state that gives voters the right to direct democracy and the ability to have a real say in politics.
With historic supermajorities in both chambers and unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts, there should be all kinds of questions around proposals to make access to citizen-led amendments more difficult. That should never be the goal of an elected official. It is not the job description, nor the responsibility of the Secretary of State to invent policy initiatives that will impact Constitutional law and the right of Ohioans to amend their constitution for generations to come.
But the day after we and our allies stopped HJR1's predecessor (HJR6) in December 2022, a leaked letter from the bill's sponsor revealed some of what's behind the effort - fear over changes to reproductive rights and redistricting.
In fact, lawmakers are so intent on stopping the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment that is likely to be on the November 2023 ballot, they have also introduced language to bring back the August special election. This special election, eliminated just a few months ago because of its $20 million price tag, would be held in 2023 with the express purpose of passing HJR 1, leading to a 60% majority requirement for any November issues to pass.
This has only been reaffirmed through statements made recently from Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, “If we save 30,000 lives as a result of spending $20 million, I think that’s a great thing.”
This is an attempt to weaken the rights of Ohio voters
Ohioans have the power of direct democracy in three ways: through citizen-led constitutional amendments, initiated statutes, and referenda. Only Ohioans and citizens in 14 other states possess these tools to check the power of state government. As lawmakers fall more out-of-step with the will of everyday voters, tools like this become more precious and their defense more important.
The amendment actually asks voters to approve - by a simple majority- a rule to require a supermajority of all future ballot initiatives.