Ohio Supreme Court rules in favor of August election that could preserve abortion ban

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Friday that an August election planned by Republican lawmakers that could make it harder for abortion-rights supporters to change the state’s constitution can take place.

The ballot measure in the August election will allow voters to decide whether to raise the required support threshold for future state constitutional amendments to 60 percent. Currently, only a majority is required.

The ruling is a blow to reproductive rights advocates, who had sued to overturn the election. These defenders pointed to the fact that Republicans in Ohio – only earlier this year – had enacted a different law that effectively erased most special elections in August from the state’s calendar, after officials called them overly expensive and low turnout engagement efforts that weren’t worth it. worry.

In their complaint, reproductive rights advocates questioned why standards would have changed so quickly and drastically. They suggested Republicans in the state Legislature only reversed on the issue because if the threshold measure passes in August, it could prevent approval of a proposed amendment in November to enshrine the right abortion in the state constitution.

But in its 4-3 decision, the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court sided with GOP lawmakers. The court ruled that the Aug. 8 election was entirely legal and constitutional, and that lawmakers had the freedom and latitude to schedule the race.

The August election will also allow voters to decide whether groups trying to place ballot measures must obtain voter signatures in all of Ohio’s 88 counties, instead of the 44 now required.

Although the measure does not explicitly mention abortion, abortion rights groups argue that its location and timing are designed to thwart efforts to secure abortion rights in the state.

If the threshold measure passes in August, then the amendment proposed in November to enshrine the right to abortion would need 60% of voters to pass. If he fails in August, he will only need a majority.

Last month, Republicans decided to schedule the August election just weeks after reproductive rights groups in the state cleared several key hurdles on their way to getting their abortion measure on the ballot. November vote.

Some Republican supporters — including Ohio GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose — had argued that holding a special election in August wasn’t worth the tens of millions of dollars in cost.

“These unnecessary off-cycle elections are not good for taxpayers, election officials, or the civic health of our state. It’s time for them to go,” said LaRose, who said he was likely to run for the US Senate in 2024, testified at legislative hearings late last year.

But earlier this month, News5 Cleveland, a local Ohio television station, unearthed a clip of LaRose saying in May that efforts to raise the threshold were “100% aimed at keeping a sweeping pro-abortion amendment alive.” out of our constitution”.

Following the report, LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols defended his reversal, telling News5 Cleveland and other media outlets that the Secretary of State had “consistently said we need to raise the standard to change the constitution of our state, whether it is health care, minimum wage, casinos or any other special interest program.

Raising the threshold for passing any future constitutional amendments would mark a major change in state procedures — the simple majority required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment has been in place in Ohio since 1912.

Meanwhile, November’s proposed abortion amendment is designed to thwart Ohio’s ‘heartbeat bill’, which came into place immediately after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last summer.

This law prohibits abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman and in the event of an ectopic pregnancy. It remains temporarily blocked by a state judge.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

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