Champaign County Democrats’ response to the proposed amendment known as Issue 1


By Heather Tiefenthaler

Chairwoman, Champaign County Democratic Party

On Issue 1, the victim and the villain are clear. The ability of citizens to hold the authors of this legislation in Columbus accountable will be significantly impacted if we fail to defeat this. Our current constitution, in place since 1912, is a fine example throughout the fifty states of balance between the people and those with the power of the legislative pen. This attempted power grab to take away our fundamental freedom of majority rule is unnecessary and abhorrent.

A constitutional amendment on the ballot in a special election is egregious in itself. The Republicans who wrote this proposal said in December they were doing away with wasteful special elections because their price tag fell between 15 and 20 million dollars each. Turnout in special elections is paltry, generally hearing from less than eight percent of voters. We ask ourselves what is the hurry on this issue that it couldn’t wait just three months until there is already an election in November? The answer is the question of reproductive choice. It was only after healthcare advocates began organizing to place an amendment on the November ballot that Republicans panicked and pushed through this response to take away our voices. This was the trigger that they originally denied as the cause and then admitted by the top election official himself. They may see this as a last-ditch strategy, however, they are spending our tax dollars to play it.

So much is wrong with this proposal it is difficult to know where to start. Not only does it raise the current threshold for passage of an initiative of 50% plus one vote to 60%, but it vastly raises the number of signatures needed and requires collecting them from ALL eighty-eight counties, instead of the current forty-four. If just one county, in particular, decides not to participate in this process, the entire initiative can be thwarted. A small county like ours, with approximately 26,000 registered voters, could speak for the more than eight million voters in the entire state. How is that majority rule? There is nothing about this part of the issue that makes any sense in a democracy “for the people.” If Issue 1 passes, that phrase will change to “for the minority.” It also eliminates the 10-day grace period to gather more signatures if petitioners fall short. These combined create an almost impossible barrier to overcome. And yet the ballot language uses the word “elevate” which is only meant to confuse voters. This proposal elevates nothing but our desire to defeat it and their ability to stifle our voices.

Professor Steven H. Steinglass at the Cleveland State University College of Law, testified: “Major changes in state constitutions should only be made after deep thought and the opportunity for participation of those most affected by the constitution- the people”. Why would the Republican-led legislature think that their proposal meets this? The answer is merely to prevent the reproductive healthcare bill from being heard in November.

Secretary Frank LaRose, now running for Senate, noted during the Issue One debate last week that one of the main reasons for this initiative was to prevent all of the frivolous and dark money takeovers of the Constitution. Steinglass notes that only 10% of the words in our state’s constitution are there as a result of citizen-led initiatives. This ratio clearly shows that ballot initiatives coming from the people are not overused, flippant, or wrought with dark money takeovers. Voters are capable of speaking up when our legislators overstep their boundaries. Legislators are the ones that are unchecked in this case. The polls in Ohio show that this ploy is simply a power grab and is unpopular with support from both sides. “We the people” will not fall for this expensive stunt full of lies and exaggerations in their support materials and advertising. We have read the proposed amendment and we see through their deception.

LaRose mentioned we should sit back and allow our elected officials to govern for us, and if we aren’t satisfied with their “work,” we simply can vote them out of office. If we had fairly drawn districts, that could be possible. Since the Republicans simply ignored the ruling from the Supreme Court on the unconstitutionality of their district lines, our gerrymandered districts remain. Ask your neighbors in rural Ohio just how many Republican candidates actually campaign for their seats. Here, our elected officials like Jim Jordan and others, rarely step foot on a debate stage, hold town halls, or participate in listening tours as their votes are seemingly wrapped up on the day they submit their petitions to run. With our gerrymandered and noncompetitive districts, we end up with scandals like Larry Householder and friends’ First Energy debacle, bringing national attention to us as the largest scandal in Ohio history. LaRose and his fellow Republicans tell us to trust him. That would be comical if not so frightening. We must not side with him nor stop advocating to keep our rights as is. A simple majority is what should stay the rule of the state. It has worked for well over one hundred years; a minority of voters should not get to decide for the rest of us.

The Republican-dominated legislature in Columbus should be focusing on real solutions to current problems. Between the new voter ID laws and all the additional steps added as the results of the Big Lie in January, they have taken their eyes off of the real problems and are trying to steal the voice from the voters. They are taking their talking points from people such as Illinois millionaire, Dick Uihlein, not Ohioans. Tell Uihlein and Republicans in Columbus that Ohio is not for sale.

Let’s stop the villains and join me in voting overwhelmingly NO on Issue 1. Let the people continue to hold the power of the citizen-led initiative with a simple majority rule and keep our legislators accountable. Our constitution is too important to willingly give up our power and we won’t be fooled into “elevating” our rights. They are just fine where they are.

Heather Tiefenthaler

Chairwoman, Champaign County Democratic Party

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