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Ohio voters reject measure that would have made it harder to change constitution

Ohio voters defeated Issue 1 in a special election with higher than expected turnout for an August election day.
Samantha Hendrickson
Ohio voters defeated Issue 1 in a special election with higher than expected turnout for an August election day.

Ohio voters have defeated Issue 1, according to a race call by the Associated Press on Tuesday night. The no vote rejects a proposed constitutional change that would have made it harder to pass future amendments to the Ohio Constitution.

This means an amendment that could enshrine abortion rights into the state's constitution will need to pass by a 50% plus one margin when it comes up for a vote this November.

A higher than expected number of Ohio's registered voters cast ballots in this special August election that was set by supermajority Republican state lawmakers who oppose abortion.

Some of those lawmakers just months ago approveda law eliminating most August special elections because of low turnout and high costs.

But when lawmakers couldn't pass a resolution in time to put the constitutional change on the May primary ballot, they turned their eyes to August anyway.

Following a lawsuit by opponents, the Republican-dominated Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday's special election could proceed because the new law against August special elections doesn't apply to lawmakers putting a constitutional amendment before voters.

Tuesday morning, there were problems at some polling places.

Nazek Hatasha, policy affairs manager for the Ohio League of Women Voters, said some poll workers had turned away voters over confusion about a photo ID requirement. That was also part of the law that banned most August special elections.

"They had the proper ID but are being turned away with a driver's license that has not expired but doesn't have a current address," Hatasha said.

Hatasha said there was a problem with signage for curbside voting at many polling places, so voters who needed assistance were confused about where to park or how to get that service. And she said there were issues with lines at some polling places in some urban areas, especially where precincts had been moved or consolidated.

It was known going into this election that some areas would be short on poll workers, since the state had said it hadn't reached its poll worker goal. Hatasha said throwing in the new voter ID law made it especially difficult.

"Anyone who has ever been a poll worker, whether you are experienced or you are new, you really need a greater degree of training," Hatasha said.

People celebrate the defeat of Issue 1 during a watch party Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete / AP
People celebrate the defeat of Issue 1 during a watch party Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.

Mike West, manager of the outreach department for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said there were challenges in getting enough poll workers for this election. New voter laws and new voting machines also made things tough.

"At a couple of locations, it took them a few minutes to get the scanners up and running because these are brand new scanners so all of the procedures are new for our poll workers," West said.

West said the scanner problems didn't cause any delays and all of the scanners were working properly. Summit County had similar scanner problems, but those were handled early in the day.

The turnout for this election was higher than anticipated. Some Republican officeholders had said they expected the attention on Issue 1 would drive up turnout.

Even so, the weekend before early voting began, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a primary backer of Issue 1, said he "wouldn't be surprised" if turnout was similar to last year's legislative primary. The turnout in that August 2022vote was 7.9% statewide.

Early voting on Issue 1 boosted turnout numbers this time around. Nearly 700,000 Ohioans cast early ballots, a number five times higher than the total turnout last August.

Jo Ingles covers politics and government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen Kasleris Bureau Chief for the Statehouse News Bureau.

Copyright 2023 The Statehouse News Bureau

Jo Ingles
Karen Kasler