SUDDES: Is there an ulterior motive to Ohio House Joint Resolution 6?

“Unfair, undemocratic and unpopular and [it] will silence the voices of everyday Ohioans” – that’s what more than 140 Ohio consumer, good-government and labor organizations say about a plan, backed by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, to make it harder for the state’s voters to amend the Ohio Constitution.

Suspicious minds might have added that the LaRose plan could also make it tougher for pro-choice Ohioans to regain and protect women’s access to abortion, which the General Assembly has virtually barred with the help of June’s Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court.

Currently, Ohio voters must muster a simple majority vote – 50% plus one – to OK constitutional amendments, whether it’s proposed by voter petition or the General Assembly. LaRose wants to require a 60% majority vote for constitutional amendments voters propose .

Initially, amendments proposed by the General Assembly would still have required only a simple statewide majority vote. Now, in a fake move to imply “fairness,” the proposal may be tweaked to also require a 60% “yes” vote on amendments proposed by the legislature.

LaRose says he wants to make it harder for special interests to hijack the constitution, something he implies the 50% plus one requirement allows. In fact, Ohio voters in 2015 backstopped the constitution against monopoly schemes.

But maybe what House Joint Resolution 6 – the proposed 60% requirement – really aims for is making it harder for Ohioans to restore access to abortion by a petition-initiated amendment. And such an amendment is likely to surface sometime in the next year or so.

The sponsor of HJR 6 – the 60% requirement – is Republican Rep. Brian Stewart, of Pickaway County’s Ashville, whose district encompasses Pickaway and Madison counties, and part of Franklin County.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June, voters in six states have faced ballot issues to either guarantee abortion rights or limit or end them. In every case, voters chose to uphold or protect access to abortion.

In August, Kansas voters rejected a bid to restrict abortion in that state; the “no” vote – that is, the winning pro-abortion-access vote – comprised 59% of those voting on the question.

Then in November, voters in five more states protected abortion rights or rejected proposals to limit or end them. In two of them (California and Vermont), both emphatically liberal, the winning, pro-abortion-access side drew big margins: 67% of the vote (California) and 73% in Vermont.

In the other three November tallies, the pro-choice side won 56.7% of the vote (Michigan); 52.4% (in Kentucky); and 52.6% (in Montana).

Could it be that the real aim of the 60% majority requirement proposed by HJR 6 – backed by LaRose – is to derail any attempt by Ohioans to restore, by a ballot issue, a Roe v. Wade standard for abortion in Ohio?

In that connection, consider this: A Baldwin Wallace University Pulse Poll of 867 Ohio registered voters (conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3) found that 59% of those polled said “yes” when asked if they “would vote yes or no on a constitutional amendment to make the right to abortion a fundamental right in Ohio.” That’s 1 percentage point short of the 60% winning margin that HJR 6 would require for voter-initiated constitutional amendments in Ohio.

If, as LaRose says, his sincere goal is to fetter special interests from hijacking Ohio’s government, then perhaps he’d consider supporting fully disclosed, publicly posted lobbying information, such as what California’s law requires, which could at least help Ohio taxpayers see what they’re really up against at the Statehouse.

Don’t hold your breath.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at

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