OHIO — The process to amend the state's constitution has been top-of-mind for many Ohio voters in the lead up to an Aug. 8 special election, which will decide solely that issue.

Although August elections traditionally draw only a small percentage of voters, election officials say this election is shaping up to be somewhat of an anomaly, with Ohioans casting ballots in droves.

Since early and absentee voting began in June, nearly 600,000 Ohioans have cast their ballots in person at polling locations, via mail, by drop box or hand-delivered, according to the Ohio Secretary of State website.

That number indicates “a significant increase in voter activity from the August statewide primary election of 2022,” the state reported.

What You Need To Know

  • The process to amend the state’s Constitution has been top-of-mind for Ohio voters heading to polls for Issue 1

  • August elections traditionally draw a small percentage of voters, but this election is drawing Ohio voters in droves

  • Since early voting began on June 23, nearly 600,000 Ohioans have cast their ballots

  • Issue 1 would increase the required signatures to approve a Constitutional amendment to 60% of voters, rather than a simple majority

At issue is how difficult the process should be to amend the Ohio Constitution.

Drafted by Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature, Issue 1 would increase the required signatures to 60% of voters to approve an amendment to the Constitution, rather than a simple majority.

A simple majority of voters is 50% of voters plus one.

In addition, if Issue 1 is approved, beginning Jan. 1, 2024, putting a Constitutional amendment on Ohio ballots would require signatures from 5% of voters in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, based on the total vote in each county for the previous gubernatorial election.

Currently, signatures are required from voters in 44 Ohio counties.

Issue 1 supporters say, as the process now stands, it’s too easy for out-of-state interests to change Ohio’s Constitution.

Opponents of Issue 1 say lawmakers behind the measure wish to undercut an abortion-rights amendment Ohioans will see on November ballots.

And if Issue 1 passes, Ohio would be the only state in the U.S. that requires signatures from every county, which means one county could derail a proposed amendment.

Opponents also point to the Ohio legislature eliminating August elections last year, but passing a resolution specifically to allow this election for Issue 1, expecting a weak turnout.

Some GOP members acknowledge abortion is key with Issue 1.

In a 2022 letter to colleagues promoting Issue 1, shared on social media by Cleveland.com, Ohio Rep. Brian Stewart, a Republican, referred to the abortion rights amendment as “an end run” around lawmakers to “write abortion on demand into Ohio’s Constitution.”

Further, he pointed to Democrats’ intent to amend the Constitution to enable unelected liberals to draw legislative districts, which have faced repeated litigation.

Stewart referred specifically to retired Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, who has supported redistricting reform and creation of an independent redistricting commission. O'Connor also sided with Democratic lawmakers in the litigation over Ohio’s district maps.

Additional debates have ensued over Issue 1, including whether Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's open support of Issue 1 violates the Hatch Act, or is unethical.

The Hatch Act prohibits certain officeholders from using their authority to influence an election.

Last week, the Libertarian Party of Ohio filed a formal complaint against LaRose for allegedly campaigning on Issue 1 to influence an election.

LaRose recently announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate and his current office administers federal funds to run elections.

He has encouraged Ohioans to vote “Yes” on Issue 1 on social media, saying Ohio's Constitution must be protected from an “all out assault which radical coastal liberals have launched against us.”

In an Op Ed to the Columbus Dispatch, LaRose also pointed to the FirstEnergy scandal involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder as a reason to support Issue 1.

According to LaRose, just weeks before Householder was charged with racketeering, he was planning to amend Ohio’s Constitution to extend his term in office 16 more years.

“All it takes to ratify an amendment is a well-funded, dishonest political campaign and a simple majority vote,” LaRose wrote.

As Election Day looms, Ohioans appear equally divided on Issue 1, according to an Ohio Northern University poll.

Polling 675 registered Ohio voters online from July 17 to 26, the poll found 42.4% approve of Issue 1, while 41% disapprove.

However, voters' views on abortion seem to conflict with those results, pollsters said.

At 60%, a majority of Ohio likely voters believe abortion should be legal, with 54% saying they would support a constitutional amendment to protect reproductive autonomy.

Polls across Ohio will be open Tuesday, Aug. 8 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. A photo I.D. is now required for in-person voting.

Polling locations can be found online.