Lawmakers reverse themselves, schedule special election in August
Five months after voting to prohibit August special elections citing cost and historically low turnout, Ohio lawmakers in May approved a statewide special election to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
If approved by voters, Issue 1 on the Aug. 8 ballot will amend the state’s constitution to raise the percentage of votes needed to amend the constitution from 50 percent to 60 percent.
Legislators, who had earlier opposed the use of statewide special elections as costly and undemocratic, say the change would prevent “outside special interests” from amending Ohio’s constitution.
Critics of the law say it would further entrench minority rule in the state, as 41 percent of voters could defeat a proposal supported by 59 percent of voters. Opponents of the measure also noted that state lawmakers voted in December 2022 to prohibit statewide special elections. The ban was included in a package of changes to Ohio voting that included new voter identification requirements and changes to early voting dates and vote-by-mail deadlines.
In introducing the ban on August special elections, Representative Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp) said, “August special elections are costly to taxpayers and fail to engage a meaningful amount of the electorate in the process. They should be eliminated from the elections calendar.”
But on May 10, Ohio lawmakers – including Hall – who had voted earlier to ban statewide special elections in August reversed themselves and voted to conduct a statewide special election this August. Senate Joint Resolution 2 passed the Ohio Senate by a vote of 26-7 and passed the Ohio House by a vote of 62-37. In the Senate, all Republicans supported the Resolution while all Democrats opposed it. In the House, five Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the measure.
Opponents of the Resolution say that it was hurriedly passed by Republican lawmakers so that it could be in effect this November, when a proposal to amend Ohio’s constitution to protect abortion rights is expected to be on the ballot.
The Ohio Association of Elections Officials opposes the proposed August election and two lawsuits have already been filed to block the election.
Walter Topp is a resident of Bay Village.