Ohio General Assembly Proposes Constitutional Amendment to be Considered in an August General Election

May 30, 2023Advocacy

Ohio voters will decide a critical constitutional issue during a special election on August 8 2023, with possible implications for two more expected Constitutional amendment ballot measures that are likely to appear at the November 7, 2023 general election.

The Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 2 on Wednesday, May 10. S.J.R. 2 proposes amending the constitution so that any future Constitutional amendments to receive 60% support of voters for enactment. S.J.R. 2 also makes changes to the signature gathering process for initiative petitions for proposed Constitutional amendments.  Beginning January 1, 2024, initiative petitions proposing a Constitutional amendment must be signed by at least 5% of the electors of the each of Ohio’s 88 counties.  Currently, the Ohio Constitution requires a certain signature threshold of signatures from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.  S.J.R. 2 also eliminates the ten-day cure period, which allows ballot committees to gather additional signatures if the initially filed petition is determined to have insufficient signatures. The amendment leaves in place the ten day cure period and the 44-county requirement for referendum petitions and initiative petitions proposing statutory changes.  Five Republican members of the House joined the chamber’s Democratic members in opposing the resolution.

A simple majority of Ohio voters is needed to approve SJR 2 during the August 2023 special election.

It is worth noting that in 2022, the General Assembly passed HB 458 that largely eliminated long-standing August special elections in Ohio, except in cases where a political subdivision or school district is facing a fiscal emergency.  As S.J.R. 2 was finally considered on the House floor for final approval this week, S.J.R. 2 was amended to re-create an August 2023 special election for the specific and exclusive purpose of creating an election for S.J.R. 2.

The One Person One Vote, a campaign group organized to oppose S.J.R. 2, filed litigation challenging the legality of creating an August Special Election through a legislative resolution on Friday, May 12.

If S.J.R.2 passes during the August 2023 special election, two likely Constitutional amendments would face the proposed higher threshold for passage.  One is a proposed amendment following the US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs entitled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health & Safety” which effectively enshrines reproductive choice in Ohio’s Constitution. The second proposed Constitutional amendment seeks to raise Ohio’s minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped employees.  Groups supporting each of these two Constitutional amendments are currently collecting signatures to appear on the November 2023 ballot.  Petitions with sufficient signatures for the proposed Constitutional amendments must be filed with Ohio Secretary of State not later than July 5, 2023.

The likely November 2023 ballot measure which seeks to expand Ohio’s medical marijuana program to permit fully recreational cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana would be unaffected by S.J.R. 2 because the proposed amendment does not impact citizen initiated statutes.  The citizen initiated statute proposal – An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use of Cannabis – is also beginning to collected its second round of signatures for placement on the November 2023 general election ballot following the Ohio General Assembly’s failure to enact the proposal during the 4-month window required for proposed statutory initiatives.

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