By Tom Peterson, Michigan Advance
Newly elected Ohio House Speaker Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) gives brief remarks at the opening day ceremonies of the 135th General Assembly of the State of Ohio, January 3, 2023, in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. // Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal
The unconstitutionally gerrymandered extremist Republican supermajority in the Ohio House on Wednesday voted to be the first legislature in Ohio history to try to roll back the constitutional power of Ohio voters.
Dripping with deceit and condescension, they say they want to hurt voters’ ability to pass constitutional amendments in order to protect the Ohio Constitution.
They have admitted in private and in public that their effort is really aimed to stop an abortion rights amendment slated for the November ballot, and to stop voters from any effort toward further anti-gerrymandering reform.
They would not have had the votes to do this if they hadn’t ignored the Ohio Constitution by forcing Ohioans in 2022 to vote under district maps declared unconstitutional by a bipartisan Ohio Supreme Court five times.
In doing so, they flagrantly violated the will of Ohio voters who passed anti-gerrymandering reform for Statehouse districts in 2015 with nearly 71% of the vote.
Ohio Republicans have decided to spend $20 million to hold a traditionally low-turnout August election in 2023 to ask voters to enshrine 41% minority rule. They held a special election in August 2022 costing $20 million to hold a primary for their current unconstitutional districts.
The original 1802 Ohio Constitution gave voters no authority over the constitution, gave the governor no veto power over the legislature, and left a Statehouse able to rule by fiat in defiance of the people.
This is similar to the current unconstitutionally gerrymandered supermajority legislature that can override the governor’s veto.
Ohio voters have had a majority say over the Ohio Constitution since 1851, when it was rewritten to give voters power to hold the then-unaccountable legislature accountable.
The Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1912 expanded the power of voters even further, introducing the ability of citizen-led initiatives and referendum. Ohioans have used it incredibly responsibly.
Since 1912, Ohioans have brought citizen constitutional amendment ballot initiatives 71 times, with 19 amendments approved and 52 rejected, for a passage rate of 26%.
Nevertheless, Ohio Republicans claim these citizen-led initiatives, which are so rarely passed, need to have the bar raised because they say out-of-state special interests are taking over Ohio’s Constitution.
They have been unable to point to any evidence of this non-existent problem they are shrieking over, and their screaming hypocrisy is apparent to every thinking Ohioan:
Their effort is being bankrolled by an extremist Illinois billionaire who has also funded both Jan. 6 and 2020 election deniers around the country.
Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, after much hemming and hawing, buckled to these radical lunatics, revealing himself in the end as just another weak, untrustworthy pushover, willing to sell out Ohioans for corrupt special interests.
The August election for this proposal is opposed by more than 240 bipartisan Ohio groups, four bipartisan former governors, five bipartisan former attorneys general, and the entire association of Ohio election officials who administer our elections.
On the other side are the zealots and fanatics at Ohio Right to Life and the Center for Christian Virtue, various gun-ownership absolutist lobbyists, and the Ohio Restaurant Association.
One of the most disastrous portions of the proposal is to bring the current requirement that citizens collect signatures from 44 counties, to a requirement signatures come from all 88 counties, and the elimination of the “cure” period where signature-gatherers can correct things such as wrong addresses listed for signers.
This would guarantee that only the richest, most well-financed special interests will have the resources to bring ballot initiatives. It would also essentially give the smallest county in the state veto power on ballot initiatives over every other county and citizen.
The tyranny of right-wing extremist minority rule in Ohio is their transparent goal. As noted in opponent testimony, they aim to give 40% of citizens authority over the rights, lives, and liberties of 100% of Ohioans, using a special election that last year saw 7.9% turnout.
Ohio’s citizen ballot process is already staggeringly difficult and burdensome, and citizens are already profoundly thoughtful over the initiatives they approve.
These gerrymandered, corrupt Republican lawmakers know all this. They’ve been told over and over. They don’t care.
They want to roll back Ohio history and bring us back to 1850 purely out of their own selfish, narrow-minded, thoughtless, destructive lust for power.
Your corrupt, extremist, gerrymandered, unaccountable Ohio Republican Statehouse lawmakers have called down the thunder, Ohio voters.
They’ve invited you into the street for a brawl this August over the majority voter authority you’ve had for nearly 175 years.
Now you get to decide what you want to do about that.
OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends.
The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.
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