The failed Ohio Amendment reflected efforts by Republicans nationwide to restrict direct democracy


Columbus, Ohio (AP) — After Ohio voters rescinded a Republican-backed law that would have curtailed unions’ collective bargaining rights in 2011, then-GOP Gov. John Kasich was remorseful.

“I heard their voices, I understand their decision and, frankly, I respect what people say in an effort like this,” he told reporters after the defeat.

The tone of Ohio Republicans was much different in the last week after the vote Strongly refused Their attempt to impose obstacles on the passage of amendments to the state constitution – a proposal that would have made it more difficult to pass Measurement of abortion rights In November.

During an election night news conference, Republican Senate President Matt Hoffman vowed to use the powers of his legislative supermajority to bring the case back soon, blaming variously on out-of-state dark money, unsupportive fellow Republicans, lack of time and the complexity of the case. for its failure.

He never mentioned respecting the will of the 57% of Ohio voters in both Democratic and Republican counties who voted “no” on the Republican proposal.

A striking contrast illustrates an increase Hostility between elected Republicans across the country toward the nation’s purest form of direct democracy – Voting is conducted at the initiative of the citizen —because it threatens their hold on power in the states in which they control the legislature.

Historically, attempts to undermine the CBI process have come from both parties, Daniel A. Smith, professor of political science at the University of Florida.

“It comes down to which party is in monopoly control of the state legislatures and the governorship,” he said. “When you have this monopoly on power, you want to limit the vote of the electorate at the state level that might interfere with your efforts to control the process.”

According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Justice Project, Ohio and five other states where Republicans control the legislature — Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and North Dakota — have either passed, attempted to pass, or are currently working to pass expanded supermajority requirements for electors to approve ballot measures on state level.

At least six states, including Ohio, have sought to increase the number of counties in which signatures must be collected.

The group found that at least six of the 24 states that allow ballot initiatives have banned out-of-state distribution of petitions, and nine have banned paid distributions altogether, the group reports.

Eighteen states required distributors to swear they’d seen every signature printed on the paper. Arkansas has imposed background checks on traders. The state of South Dakota imposed such a large line size on petitions that it makes it cumbersome to circulate.

Republicans in Ohio and elsewhere are constraining the ballot initiative process in an era of renewed populism not getting their way, said Sarah Walker, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. She said the Conservatives had no interest in adjusting the ballot initiative process when they were winning campaigns in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“Since then, I’ve seen left-leaning organizations really develop their organizational skills and start to win,” she said. The reason given for restricting the suffrage initiative is often the isolation of the state from outside private interests. But if lawmakers are interested in limiting that, there are things they can do legislatively to restrict those groups, and I don’t see them having any interest in doing that.”

The aggressive positions of Ohio’s Republican supermajority—including support One of the strictest abortion bans in the countryrefused to pass many The GOP governor proposed gun control measures In the face of a deadly mass shooting, W.J production frequently Unconstitutional political maps – spurred would-be reformers.

push it Touching combination Republican politicians, anti-abortion organizations, gun rights and business interests in the state to advance the failed amendment Tuesday, which would have raised the threshold for passing future constitutional changes from a simple majority. for an absolute majority of 60%.

Another example is Missouri, where Republicans plan to try to raise the threshold for amending that state’s constitution during the legislative session beginning in 2024 — after previous efforts failed.

Those plans come in state where legislators are Funding refused Voters agreed to expand Medicaid until it was forced to by court order, and where voters were voted in Marijuana provided for in the Constitution Last fall after the failure of lawmakers. that The question of abortion rights Heading to the 2024 Missouri ballot.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is among the state’s Republicans to describe Number 1 as a fight against vested interests outside the state, even though both sides of the campaign have been Largely funded by these groups.

He called the $20 million special election “just one battle in a long war.”

LaRose said, “Unfortunately, we’ve been vastly outspent by dark moneyers from California to New York, and a giant ‘for sale’ banner still hangs over the Ohio Constitution.” Run for the US Senate In the year 2024.

Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, said Ohio Republicans’ promise to come back with another attempt to constrain the initiative process “says more about representative democracy than direct democracy.”

It rejected the narrative that special interests outside the state use the avenue of direct democracy to force unpopular policies into state constitutions, arguing that corporations have much greater influence over state legislators.

“The lowest place out of state is direct democracy, because millions of Ohioans participate, not just the dozens who receive campaign contributions from corporate political action committees, who receive round-the-clock perks, meetings, and influence from corporations,” she said.

“Vot measures enable issues of concern to working families to actually be placed on the agenda in the state, rather than on the agenda set by those who can afford lobbyists and campaign contributions.”

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