October 3, 2023

In a significant victory for abortion-rights advocates, Ohio’s Issue 1 was voted down in Tuesday’s special election, as reported by the Associated Press. The issue drew substantial attention, with nearly 700,000 advance ballots cast during the early voting period – a figure more than twice the early vote count recorded in previous primaries in 2022 and 2018.Of notable significance, the outcome of Issue 1 holds extra weight due to ongoing efforts by Democrats to enshrine abortion protections in Ohio’s state constitution through a citizen-led ballot initiative scheduled for November. In response, Republicans introduced Issue 1, seeking to raise the voting threshold from a simple majority to 60 percent. The failure of Issue 1 on Tuesday carries potential implications for the fall vote, where the decision will still be determined by a simple majority. A July survey by USA Today/Suffolk University indicated that 58% of the 500 likely voters polled supported a constitutional amendment to include abortion protections.

While Ohio’s result constitutes a resounding setback for Republicans, its implications extend beyond the state’s borders. Experts anticipate that conservatives in other states will continue their attempts to curtail the power of ballot initiatives. After the Supreme Court’s overturning of the constitutional right to abortion last year, advocates for abortion rights have increasingly turned to ballot initiatives as a means to safeguard the procedure in the face of abortion bans enacted by various state legislatures. In 2022, six states featured abortion-related measures on their ballots, all resulting in victories for abortion-rights proponents, even in more conservative states like Kansas and Kentucky.

The endeavor to restrict the process of passing such measures isn’t unique to Ohio. Similar efforts have been pursued in other states as well. Republicans in Missouri attempted, without success, to pass a similar measure earlier this year, while Republicans in North Dakota are also planning to raise the voting threshold. Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University, notes the trend of states embracing the initiative process to secure abortion rights. Simultaneously, there’s been a rise in efforts to limit the impact of direct democracy, reflecting the complex dynamics surrounding these contentious issues in the realm of state governance.