Athens County voters handily rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that would have made it substantially more difficult for voters to amend the state constitution.
Ohio voters rejected the amendment Issue 1. With over 85% of state precincts reporting Tuesday night, the measure was failing 56.6% to 43.3%.
In Athens County, 70.67% of ballots cast rejected the ballot measure, while 29.33% approved it, according to unofficial election night results. Some provisional ballots had yet to be counted.
Only four Athens County precincts — all of which are reliably conservative — voted yes: Carthage Township, Coolville, and Troy East and West. It failed in every other precinct, including 14 that went to Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
“We’re over the moon and so proud of all the volunteer effort that went into defeating Issue 1, and all the voters who took the time to learn what it’s all about,” said Debbie Schmieding with the League of Women Voters of Athens County.
If passed, Issue 1 would have:
- Increased the vote threshold required to amend the Ohio constitution through a ballot initiative from a simple majority of 50% plus one to 60%.
- Required ballot petitions for constitutional amendments to receive signatures from 5% of electors in every Ohio county (petitions must receive signatures from only 44 of the state’s 88 counties).
- Prevented groups proposing constitutional changes from gathering additional signatures after submitting petitions to the Ohio Secretary of State.
Jay Edwards, Republican state representative for Ohio House District 94 from Nelsonville and Athens County Republican Party chair, declined a request for comment after the election was called by election reporting organization Decision Desk HQ, citing the number of votes left to be counted. He did not respond to a subsequent request for comment.
Edwards was one of only a few Republican legislators who voted against Ohio Senate Joint Resolution 2, which put Issue 1 on the ballot in the August special election. The majority of Athens County Republican Party members supported Issue 1, Edwards previously told the Independent.
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Both the state and Athens County saw voter turnout higher than typical August elections but lower than recent November elections.
In Athens County, voter turnout was 36.75% according to the unofficial results. The 2021 August election in Athens County saw only 9.57% voter turnout, though the last general election brought 49.58% of registered voters to the polls.
Opponents of Issue 1 challenged the validity of this year’s Aug. 8 election on grounds that it violated HB458, a law passed by the Ohio General Assembly in January 2023 that eliminated local special elections in August. The Ohio Supreme Court decided on June 16 that the election could move forward.
Republican leaders hoped Issue 1 would block an abortion rights ballot initiative that will appear on the ballot in November.
The same law that eliminated August special elections also created new voter identification requirements, which went into effect with this election. Ohio voters must now present a valid photo ID to vote.
“We’ve been dividing our efforts between educating voters on the trap that is Issue 1 and also on the new voting regulations from House Bill 458,” Schmieding said.
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