Ohio banned the August election. Then the Republican Party planned one that could help preserve the abortion ban.


Earlier this year, Ohio Republicans enacted a law that scrubbed effectively August special elections from the state calendar, calling them too costly and low turnout efforts not worth the effort.

But then, earlier this month, Ohio state legislative Republicans went ahead and scheduled an election for August of this year that could make it more difficult for abortion rights supporters to amend the state constitution later.

The ballot measure currently up for a vote in August would raise the limit of support required for future state constitutional reforms at 60%. Currently, only a majority is needed.

And while there is nothing that explicitly mentions abortion, abortion rights groups argue that they are designed to make it harder for voters to approve a proposed amendment, due to be placed on the ballot in November, that would enshrine the right to abortion in the Ohio Constitution.

It’s an unequivocal contradiction that caught the attention of activists, and now they are suing to have the August special election annulled.

“This election is illegal,” said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, president and founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, a group that has led efforts to support a November ballot measure that would legalize abortion. «Based on decisions made earlier this year, there is no basis for holding this election, other than people’s personal agendas to prevent the abortion rights movement from succeeding.»

The lawsuit rests largely on the fact that the newly scheduled August special election would appear to violate statutes, signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in January, that descheduled virtually all August special elections.

Supporters of that law, including DeWine and Ohio Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, had said holding a special election in August was not worth the tens of millions of dollars in costs.

“These unnecessary off-cycle elections are not good for taxpayers, election officials or the civic health of our state. It’s time for them to go,» LaRose, who has said he is likely to run for the US Senate in 2024. testified during legislative hearings late last year.

But earlier this month, Ohio Republicans passed a joint resolution scheduling a special election on Aug. 8 to raise the threshold for future ballot measures and impose higher signature collection thresholds for getting measures before voters.

“This is essentially a brazen and cynical takeover,” said Emma Olson Sharkey, an attorney with the Elias Law Group, a Democratic-aligned firm that filed the lawsuit challenging this summer’s special election in Ohio. «They’re trying to change their view of this now, based on the fact that this is now what they want to happen.»

«There is no way to reconcile these arguments,» added David Fox, a partner at the same firm, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of «One Person One Vote.» organization that is increasing the turnout to vote “no” in the August elections.

Raising the threshold for passage of future constitutional amendments would mark a major change in Ohio, where a simple majority requirement has been in place since 1912.

Four former governors of Ohio, including Republicans John Kasich and Bob Taft, and five former Ohio attorneys general, including Republicans Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro have said they oppose the measure to raise the threshold.

Republican supporters of the newly passed measures, which, because they were adopted through a joint resolution, did not require the governor’s signature, has said they would protect the state constitution from efforts to change it funded by “special interests” outside the state.

GOP supporters of both the January measure eliminating the August special election and the latest measure scheduling one this summer did not address the contradiction when asked by NBC News.

“While we do not comment on litigation or potential litigation, under the Ohio constitution, the general assembly has the sole authority to set the time, place and manner of an election,” Rob Nichols, a spokesman for LaRose, said in a statement. . «We have every confidence that the election professionals who lead our county boards of elections will faithfully deliver another safe, accessible and accurate election for Ohio voters.»

State Rep. Brian Stewart, who sponsored the latest joint resolution but also supported the January bill, said in a statement there was no contradiction. He attributed his support of the January bill to concerns about cost and turnout in the smaller local elections in August.

“That concern doesn’t exist in the context of a statewide election, which will be in every community in Ohio,” Stewart said.

DeWine, for his part, has said that it supports raising the threshold required to amend the state constitution, though his spokesman told NBC News the measure scheduling an August election passed without requiring the governor’s signature.

“The Ohio General Assembly generally has the power to set election dates under the Ohio Constitution. Both the election bill and this separate resolution can be seen as the Ohio General Assembly exercising that power. Our office was not part of the resolution,” DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit (as well as another filed by the Elias Law Group alleging that ballot language for the August 8 election was designed to intentionally mislead voters), received expedited process from the Ohio Supreme Court. .

The Ohio Supreme Court, in which the Conservatives hold a 4-3 lead, is expected to rule on the matter quickly.

If the August election goes ahead as scheduled and voters approve the threshold measure, then November’s proposed amendment enshrining abortion rights would need 60% of voters to pass. If he fails in August, he would only need a majority.

The proposed November amendment is designed to counter Ohio’s «heartbeat bill,» which snapped into place immediately after the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade last summer. That law effectively prohibits most abortions, but includes exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman and in cases of ectopic pregnancies, although stays temporarily blocked by a state judge.

Abortion rights groups, however, are not holding their breath for a favorable ruling by the state’s high court and are continuing their organizing in a «vote no» effort on the August ballot.

«I think that he [state] Should the Supreme Court declare it illegal? Absolutely. I think that would be the right thing to do,” Azevedo said. «But I’m not sure they do.»

“So we have to be ready to fully support ‘vote no’ in August,” he said.

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