The League of Women Voters of Athens County urges our local representatives, and all Ohio legislators, to vote no on House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR1) and the current effort to hold an August special election.
HJR1 would change Ohio’s constitution to require future citizen initiative ballot issues to get 60% approval. This is unnecessary because Ohio’s constitution is already difficult to amend. In the past 110 years, citizens have placed only 69 issues on the ballot and only 26% of those were approved. HJR1 is undemocratic because it would allow a minority of voters (40%) to determine whether or not an issue is approved.
It would be especially undemocratic for the legislature to place this issue in an August special election. In 2022, the legislature passed a resolution to limit the use of August special elections, because they cost the state a lot of money (approximately $20 million) and have very low turnout. The August special election in 2022 had only 8% turnout. Additionally, an August special election this year would be an extra burden on our statewide boards of elections staff who would be running an election, helping voters understand new elections laws and preparing for the November election all at the same time.
It’s particularly disappointing to see that the campaigns in favor of HJR1 and the special election are being funded by at least one out-of-state billionaire (reported in the Columbus Dispatch on April 28), demonstrating that this legislative effort is not about protecting democracy from special interests.
Ohioans deserve a democracy that is responsive to our needs. That is generally the job of legislators. But the citizen initiative process allows Ohioans direct democracy, if we feel the legislature is not fulfilling its role. It is not an easy process — putting a citizen’s initiative on the ballot requires getting hundreds of thousands of verified voter signatures from 44 of our counties and then mounting a successful vote yes campaign. Ohio voters have shown that we are responsible with our votes, and we don’t make reckless changes to our constitution.
We ask the legislature to allow all Ohioans to retain our access to direct democracy. And especially to not put such an important issue on the ballot of an August special election.
Co-President, League of Women Voters of Athens County
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