VOICES: Issue 1 would bring dishonor to our legacy of integration

As a Veteran and a current Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the Ohio Air National Guard, I will be voting “No” on Issue 1 in August.

Many voters may not be aware that there is a Special Election on August 8. Though there is only one issue on the ballot, this is a critical election that no one should miss. If Issue 1 passes, a small minority of Ohio voters would have the power to block policies that a majority of Ohioans want. That’s just wrong.

Since 1912, Ohioans have had the freedom to use ballot initiatives to improve our daily lives. Some of Ohio’s best policies have become law through this tradition of direct democracy, including bonuses and pensions for war veterans, constructing 1200 new school buildings, high standards for civil servants, and economic development investments.

Last month, the Ohio National Guard launched its Freedom to Serve Campaign, a celebration of the 75th anniversary of President Truman’s Executive Order to desegregate the Armed Forces, and the Women Armed Services Integration Act. But those federal actions didn’t get the job done on their own. To fully implement these Federal Acts, Ohioans used our current constitutional amendment process to propose improvements to Ohio’s Constitution.

Ohioans voted to racially integrate the Ohio National Guard in 1953 with a 59.3% vote. In 1961, 50.1% of Ohio voters approved allowing women to serve. Neither of these amendments to the Ohio Constitution would have passed if the 60% threshold, as proposed through Issue 1 on Aug. 8, had been in place.

Today’s 17,000 Ohio Air and Army National Guard members are estimated to be about 40% servicemembers of color and about 30% women. We all proudly serve our Nation abroad and Ohio when home.

In recent years, we worked alongside other frontline workers in hospitals and prisons as a part of our state’s response to COVID-19, and we supported law enforcement in Ohio’s major cities to keep residents and protestors safe. To this day, we continue to deploy around the globe to keep America safe, with several Ohio Air and Army National Guard units deployed or preparing to deploy right now.

Issue 1 would bring dishonor to our state’s legacy of integration of its troops and disrespects us as voters by dismissing the validity of the simple majority rule saying that the idea of “One person, one vote,” no longer applies.

We need to look no further than the preamble of the Ohio Constitution to know that it’s the people’s document. “We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution.”

I encourage everyone to join me in voting “No” on Issue 1 on Aug. 8 to protect Ohio’s constitution, to protect the power of our vote, and to honor our nation and state’s history of integration of its troops.

Zach Roberts is a Master Sergeant with the Ohio Air National Guard in Dayton

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