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Election of the Day: Ohio Issue 1

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It’s election day in Ohio, despite Ohio outlawing August elections less than a year ago. I wrote about this particular election a few weeks ago; the day of truth has arrived. Fivethirtyeight has a writeup:

Issue 1 is just the latest in a string of efforts by GOP politicians to change the rules governing ballot measures with the implicit, or sometimes explicit, aim of thwarting citizen-led policy proposals. Since 2017, at least 10 states — ArizonaArkansasFloridaMaineMissouriNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaSouth Dakota and Utah — have considered increasing the threshold for at least some ballot initiatives to pass. All these efforts were led by Republican legislators either in reaction to or in anticipation of liberal ballot questions — like a 2022 effort to expand Medicaid in South Dakota and, more recently, a potential 2024 abortion-rights amendment in Missouri.

The good news for opponents of Issue 1? These types of rule changes aren’t usually successful with voters — and right now, polling suggests that this latest effort may fail too…..

So what are Issue 1’s prospects in Ohio on Tuesday? We don’t have a lot of data, but there are signs that it, too, could be headed for defeat. If you average the three polls of the race that have been released, 35 percent of Ohioans support the 60 percent threshold, 45 percent oppose it and 20 percent aren’t sure.3 That’s a lot of undecideds, but there’s also a well-documented status-quo bias against ballot measures — meaning undecided voters tend to break for “no.” Plus, Issue 1’s opponents are much flusher with cash than its supporters; as of July 19, “no” had outraised “yes” $15 million to $5 million.

I think it’s quite likely this measure will fail, and quite possibly by a comfortable and substantial margin. I am not inclined to electoral optimism, so this position does not feel particularly comfortable to me. After 13 years here, I find optimism about an Ohio election somewhat disorienting, even though in this case it’s probably the right call. I don’t think the November abortion vote is doomed should today’s vote go south, but the chances of protecting reproductive rights in Ohio would go from “strong favorite” to “clear but live underdog” should today’s vote go the wrong way. We’ll know this evening whether the November fight to protect reproductive freedom will be a strong bet for the good guys or an huge uphill battle. I have some thoughts on this issue in my “democratic theorist” capacity but I’ll save those for a later post.

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