Fight to Defend Citizen-Led Ballot Initiatives

You have probably heard about House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR1) and Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR2), similar efforts to amend the Ohio Constitution and raise the threshold for passing a citizen-led ballot initiative to 60 percent. 

And you’ve probably heard us describe these resolutions as power grabs, a threat to democracy and one person, one vote in Ohio. 

With important proponent and opponent hearings on HJR1 scheduled for next week, we want to take a moment to explain why we feel stopping these bills is so critically important—in fact, it is the MOST important fight for Ohio. You can read the info in this email in this blog post

What is direct democracy? Usually, we vote for representatives and they create new laws. In 1912—during the era of robber barons when the state legislature was unresponsive to the people—Ohio voters created a new state Constitution which included the ability for citizens to change the Ohio Constitution directly. For over 100 years, Ohioans have been able to band together, create a proposed change, and, if they collect enough voter signatures, place their proposal on the ballot for voters to approve or disapprove. For example, in 2006, Voters approved raising the minimum wage (56.65% of the vote).

Learn more about Ohio Ballot History HERE.

Direct democracy gives power to the people. It’s the only way we can push back when the gerrymandered legislature is unresponsive to the needs and concerns of the majority. Raising the pass rate for a ballot initiative to 60% would give a minority of voters permanent veto power over the majority in Ohio. Some people’s vote would count more than others’. This would lead to less power for the people, and more power for the legislature. 

To make matters worse, the Ohio representatives who want to “protect” our Constitution by raising the pass rate for ballot initiatives are trying to rush through HJR1/SJR2 and place it on the ballot in an August special election. HB144 & SB92 are companion bills to create an August Special Election just for this purpose. 

But wait, didn’t the legislature just get rid of August Special Elections? Yes they did, in December 2022, because, in the words of Sec. of State Frank LaRose, “These unnecessary ‘off-cycle’ elections aren’t good for taxpayers, election officials or the civic health of our state. It’s time for them to go!” 

But now LaRose and others have changed their tune. They feel it is urgent to push HJR1 through in August (when few voters go to the polls), so the new rules will apply ahead of any initiatives that may make it to the ballot this November. Specifically they are worried about the Reproductive Rights initiative. Heaven forbid that Ohio voters be allowed to weigh in about this important issue.   

No matter where you are on the political spectrum or what issues you care about, access to the ballot is part of our fundamental rights in Ohio and a way to get around a rigged legislature that just doesn’t care. Giving 40 percent of voters veto power over everyone else undermines majority rule and the legitimacy of our democracy. Choosing to change the Ohio Constitution for political expediency means that a minority of voters could get in the way of reforms for years to come, including a redistricting reform effort to establish an independent redistricting commission.  

We hope now that you know a bit more about why we care so much about this issue you will be moved to take action! Here are several ways you can get involved.

  1. Attend next week’s hearing to give testimony or just to show support. (Details below.)
  2. Attend an HJR1/SJR2 testimony training at 3pm, Friday, April 14 (tomorrow!) for tips on how best to have an impact. 
  3. Email your legislators
  4. Make calls to your reps
  5. Write a letter to the editor 

HJR1 is the only item on the agenda at next week’s hearing in the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee. Opponent testimony and a possible vote are scheduled for 9:00 am, Wed. April 19, in Room 017 in the Statehouse, near the museum in the crypt. 

Opponent testimony must be submitted to Rep. Phil Plummer’s office by Tuesday, April 18 by 9:00 am. To submit opponent testimony:

You can join the fight by taking action with calls, emails, reaching out to your local newspaper or joining us next week at the Statehouse. The Common Cause Ohio team is here to help if you have questions on how to best engage and have your voice heard.