Ohioans have been voting in record numbers since June to make their voices heard for and against Issue 1, a measure that would have made changing the Ohio Constitution more difficult.
On Tuesday, Ohio voters resoundingly rejected a proposed constitutional change that would have made it tougher to protect abortion rights, the AP projects.
Drawing larger numbers of Ohio voters than any August election in recent history, the Republican-led measure would have raised the number of signatures needed to pass a constitutional amendment to 60% of the vote from a simple majority — 50% plus 1.
Ohio’s simple majority requirement has been in place since 1912, according to constitutional experts.
Since then, Ohio citizens have brought constitutional amendment ballot initiatives 71 times, with 19 amendments approved and 52 rejected, for a passage rate of 26%, according to the Ohio Democratic County Chairs Assoc.
Currently, to put a constitutional amendment before voters, signatures are required from Ohio voters in 44 counties.
Issue 1 would have required signatures from at least 5% of voters who voted in the previous gubernatorial election in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Passage of Issue 1 also would have eliminated the 10-day “cure period,” which allows citizen groups to gather additional signatures if the secretary of state's office determines some on the original filing are not valid.
Opponents of Issue 1 have said the measure takes away majority rule in Ohio, making it possible for only 40% of voters to decide important issues and eliminating constitutional protections Ohio has had in place for more than a century.
Supporters of Issue 1 have said, as it now stands, out-of-state interests can easily change the Ohio Constitution and a more rigid process needed to be put in place.
Lawmakers from around the state and across the country praised the rejection of Issue 1, including President Joe Biden, who hailed it as a ringing endorsement for both abortion rights and democracy.
"Today, Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state’s constitutional amendment process," President Biden said in a statement Tuesday night. "This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won."
"Last night, democracy won," Vice President Kamala Harris wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday. "Ohioans overwhelmingly rejected an attempt by extremists and special interests to undermine the will of the people and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. This victory makes clear: When we organize, fight, and make our voices heard, we win."
“Ohioans saw this amendment for what it was: a power grab by powerful people designed to silence their voices. By rejecting State Issue 1, Ohioans rejected special interests and demanded that democracy remain where it belongs – in the hands of voters, not the rich and powerful. That is what has always guided me and I am proud to stand with Ohioans in this fight," Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement.
Akron-area Rep. Emilia Sykes said Ohioans made their voices heard during the special election period.
"Ohioans sent a clear message tonight that they won’t allow Republicans to rig our democracy," Sykes said in a statement. "Whether it’s reproductive rights, voting rights or labor rights, these freedoms should not be subject to the whims of out-of-touch politicians. Tonight we celebrate, but the fight continues in November."
Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters said the rejection of Issue 1 is an "important victory" for the state, but the work is far from over.
"Over the next 90 days, we’ll continue working to move our state forward and to protect abortion rights. Together, with the majority of Ohioans who believe in protecting reproductive rights, we’ll tell corrupt politicians trying to strip away our freedoms and pass a total abortion ban: we won’t go back,” said Walters.
Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called it "a sad day for Ohio."