Opponents of August special election continue to use Ohio Sec. of State LaRose’s words against him

By: - April 28, 2023 5:00 am

A voter shows identification to an election judge during primary voting on May 3, 2022 in Lordstown, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

In a continuing effort to stop legislators from reinstating an August election this year, opponents quoted Ohio’s Secretary of State, who just last year, supported the removal of unneeded August elections.

The quotes included one in which Secretary Frank LaRose claimed August elections result in “a handful of voters” making “big decisions,” and the winner in those elections “is often the one that has a vested interest in the passage of the issue up for consideration.”

“Why should a handful of voters with a vested interest be permitted to amend the constitution,” said Andrea Yagoda, at a Thursday hearing of the Ohio House Oversight Committee. “Why is an August special election needed? Why can’t voters vote in the primary or general election on a legislative attempt to amend the constitution?”

Opponents like Yagoda showed up to testify against House Bill 144 and Senate Bill 92, both which seek to expand August special elections, and appropriate $20 million for this year’s election to be held, if either of the bills pass.

With the Republican push to hold an August special election this year, it’s been made clear that this time, vested interests exist: those that would like to increase the threshold to pass a constitutional amendment from 50% to 60%, a move meant to target an amendment proposal set to hit the ballot in November.

That ballot measure would set to voters the question of legalized abortion int the state, for which supporters have started collecting signatures with a July 5 deadline based on the current rules, amounting to more than 400,000 signatures representing more than half of Ohio counties.

Supporters of the August special election bills, and those that urge passage of the resolutions to raise the voter threshold say they are merely looking to protect the state constitution, making it necessarily hard to change the founding document.

Opponents like the ACLU’s Gary Daniels say getting a measure on the ballot, much less amending the constitution, is hard enough.

“If our ballot initiative process is better and less restrictive than other states, that should be a point of pride, not something subject to manipulation by those in power frightened and frustrated by citizen input and involvement,” Daniels said.

The most recent turnout for an August election was 7.9% statewide, with the biggest county turnout coming in under 20%. Daniels said allowing so few Ohioans to make such big decisions is exactly the type of situation legislature said they were attempting to stop with the last round of legislation.

The groups that would have to manage the special election harbor their own concerns outside of the flip-flop of legislation from last year to now, according to Frankie DiCarlantonio, Jefferson County Board of Elections member and Ohio Association of Election Officials trustee.

DiCarlantonio said SB 92 “represents an unfortunate continuation of policies that are making the administration of elections difficult beyond reason and forcing good people out of jobs they otherwise love.”

Election officials have had to adapt to rapidly changing situations throughout the last few years, from the pandemic to the redistricting uncertainty that caused multiple changes in voting maps. But with yet another change on the horizon, the question as to whether election workers should have to make so many shifts when not related to a global pandemic or a once-every-decade change in districts.

“These are your friends and your neighbors,” DiCarlantonio told the committee. “They are human beings. And the demands being placed on them have become unreasonable and untenable.”



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.