How an August vote on Ohio’s Issue 1 affects the campaign for an abortion access amendment this fall

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Volunteers and paid workers are working throughout Ohio trying to collect signatures for a November vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. But with a vote in on Issue 1 in August that could make it harder to amend Ohio’s constitution, those petition gatherers are also doing something else.

Supporters of abortion rights gather signatures at a race in downtown Columbus.
Supporters of abortion rights gather signatures at a race in downtown Columbus. They need nearly 414,000 valid signatures by July 5 for the amendment to the Ohio constitution guaranteeing reproductive rights and abortion access to be on the November ballot. [Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau]
Pro-Choice Ohio’s Gabe Mann said signature gatherers are doing a lot of voter education right now.

“Most folks don’t know that there are elections in odd numbered years, so this entire process is centered around voter education,” Mann said. “We are adding in this layer to ask them to vote ‘no’ in August.”

In that August special election, voters will be asked to decide on Issue 1, which would raise the threshold to approve constitutional amendments to 60%, making it harder to pass the planned abortion rights amendment in the fall. The language to make that resolution Issue 1 was approved by Republicans on the Ohio Ballot Board this week.

But Mann said those who are signing petitions have been motivated since last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 50-year-old ruling that legalized abortion.

“There’s been a lot of tricks by extremist politicians that people are really getting tired of – from redistricting to this new August special election to the work they’ve done to attack reproductive freedom. People are paying attention and they are not happy,” Mann said.

Supporters of Issue 1 don’t have to collect signatures, because that amendment came from state lawmakers. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, the Ohio Restaurant Association and the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association have come out in favor of what is now Issue 1. Chamber Chief Executive Officer Steve Stivers said his group hasn’t and won’t take a position on the possible November abortion access amendment, but he said it has an interest in making it tougher to pass constitutional amendments.

“The Ohio Chamber is a business association and takes positions on business issues, not social issues. While we support protecting our constitution in August, this has everything to do with subjects like minimum wage, employment at-will and other business issues,” Stivers said.

Supporters of raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2028 have started circulating petitions to get that amendment before voters in November 2024.

Gun rights groups also support making it harder to pass future constitutional amendments. And abortion rights opponents, who were instrumental in getting the 60% voter approval amendment passed by lawmakers, say they will be rallying their troops to vote “yes” on Issue 1 in August and “no” on the abortion rights amendment if it makes the ballot in November.

There is still a chance neither issue will appear before voters. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering a case filed by Issue 1 opponents, who say the resolution that created it is unconstitutional. Those abortion rights backers also need to collect nearly 414,000 valid petition signatures from 44 Ohio counties by July 5 to put that issue before voters in November.