The Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment, proposed by State Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), seeks a supermajority requirement for ballot initiative-driven constitutional amendments, as is required in some states.
Proponents of the amendment say this will help safeguard the Constitution from the influence of outside, special interests. A new group, Save Our Constitution PAC, has been formed to support the passage of the amendment and has pledged to hold opponents of the amendment accountable.
“Our Constitution has been hijacked by special interests and legislators have an opportunity – and duty – to stop it by voting to put the Constitution Protection Amendment on the August ballot,” said Joel Riter, advisor to the PAC. “Save Our Constitution PAC will be scoring this vote and we will ensure that Ohio voters in 2024 are informed about legislators who say yes to this important amendment to protect our Constitution. And those who oppose it or prevent it from being brought to a vote will be held accountable by voters.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported that the proposal, the Ohio Constitution Protection Act, would require 60% of voters to enact constitutional amendments, instead of a simple majority.
The United States Constitution requires that federal constitutional amendments receive a supermajority vote, Ashland Source reported. Additionally, 32 states do not allow for amendments to the Constitution to be passed through ballot initiatives. Of the remaining 18 states, like Ohio, that do allow constitutional amendments through ballot initiatives, many have enacted supermajority requirements.
“Our Founding Fathers ensured that the United States Constitution would be protected against outside influence and special interests by requiring a supermajority vote for amendments,” bill sponsor Stewart said in a statement. “We can and should protect the Ohio Constitution in a similar way.”
The office of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose points to the length of Ohio’s Constitution as evidence of the Constitution being used as a “tool” by special interests to permanently change government to their liking.
“The bloat is evidenced in the size of the document itself: The United States Constitution includes 7,591 words while the Ohio Constitution has over 67,000, including topics ranging from the development of casinos to bond consolidation to how people select their health care,” LaRose said.
The Ohio Constitution should be a framework of our state government rather than a tool for special interests, LaRose said.
“If you have a good idea and feel it deserves to be within the framework of our government, it should require the same standard for passage that we see in both our United States Constitution and here in our own state legislature,” he said. “Requiring a broad consensus majority of at least 60% for passing a petition-based constitutional amendment provides a good-government solution to promote compromise.”
In a news release, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office also reports that in just the past three petition-based amendment campaigns, special interests have spent more than $50 million on ads and political expenses to support their passage. Only one of these amendments was successfully passed.
According to data, there have been 16 proposed petition-based constitutional amendments since 2000. Of those 16, only five passed, and three of the five passed with more than 60% of the vote.
In February, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill that would raise the threshold for passing constitutional amendments from 50% up to 60%. If approved by the Missouri Senate, the measure would be placed on the ballot in an upcoming election for the voters in Missouri to decide on.
According to Ballotpedia, in Florida, constitutional amendments already require a supermajority, or 60% of the vote, for passage. This requirement was adopted in 2006.
Stewart’s bill will also require proposed ballot initiatives to receive petition signatures from all 88 Ohio counties rather than 44 as currently required under Ohio law.
“When we talk about changing our Constitution, we need to make sure it has widespread support from all corners of the state,” Stewart said of the proposed change.