The wild desperation of the lobbyists and politicians attacking voters and the Ohio Constitution

July 21, 2023 4:30 am
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Photo by WEWS.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Photo by WEWS.

Ohio Issue 1 is not about any one issue, it’s about majority voter power over every issue. Issue 1 is asking Ohio voters to go to the polls, put our hands around our own necks, and strangle away our own power to hold out-of-control Statehouse lobbyists and lawmakers accountable.

This is being asked by lawmakers sitting in unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts, amid a backdrop of the largest political bribery and racketeering scandal in Ohio history, where energy lobbyists and executives conspired with Ohio’s most powerful lawmakers to rake Ohioans out of $1.3 billion dollars.

Certain special interest lobbyists largely run the Ohio Statehouse, funding Republican candidates and issuing coveted endorsements for lawmakers in districts where gerrymandering makes it so that only the primaries matter.

In return, the Republican politicians carve out sweetheart legislation on everything under the sun: utilities, fossil fuels, the privatization of education, the gutting of government services to finance bigger and bigger tax handouts for the wealthy and well-connected, attacks on women’s access to health care, attacks on LGBTQ+ access to health care, opening up our gun laws in every way conceivable despite continuously rising gun deaths.

But now, unsatisfied, Republicans and their lobbyist friends are attempting to execute the largest, most anti-democratic, Big Government power grab in state history.

Early voting is underway for Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot August 8. It would raise the threshold for Ohio voters to pass amendments from a simple 50% majority to 60%, and increase signature requirements from 44 counties to all 88 counties, which would effectively kill Ohio grassroots amendment proposals.

The Republicans and lobbyists supporting Issue 1 have been claiming the constitution is under attack by out-of-state special interests. This accusation is clearly an admission, as their attack on the Ohio Constitution is being bankrolled by an extremist Illinois billionaire named Dick Uihlein, who has launched similar attacks on the state constitutions of Missouri, South Dakota, and Arkansas, all of which failed.

Ohioans don’t appear to be buying their bull. A USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University poll released Thursday found 57% of likely voters are against Issue 1, with 26% in favor of it and 17% undecided.

This will only make them more hysterical and desperate, though they are already having a banner year for that.

Originally, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose tried to pretend this effort had nothing to do with an abortion rights amendment proposed for November. Now LaRose is on the campaign trail with Ohio’s most powerful anti-abortion lobbyist, and telling county Republican Party dinners, “It’s 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”

If you think it’s severely abnormal, inappropriate, and unethical for Ohio’s chief elections officer to be campaigning with an anti-abortion lobbyist, to attack 100 years of Ohio majority voter power, when a majority supports reproduction rights, you’re 100% correct.

LaRose has freedom of speech just like everybody else, but to be advocating in such a way on a historic constitutional issue raises questions about whether he might abuse his public authority overseeing the election by, say, applying a double standard.

Last week, it was revealed by OCJ/WEWS that Secretary LaRose rejected dozens of submissions of old absentee ballot forms printed by the Cleveland Jewish News in June, but when Issue 1 supporters sent out an old form, within hours he issued guidance saying they’re OK.

Meanwhile, LaRose announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Monday and followed it with a live-streamed interview with the lobbyist’s anti-abortion group. So it’s pretty obvious LaRose launched this attack on Ohio voter majority power at least in part to secure political backing from the anti-abortion lobby for his U.S. Senate ambitions.

As a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, LaRose voted five times for Statehouse districts declared to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered by a bipartisan Ohio Supreme Court. The same anti-abortion lobbyist LaRose is campaigning with, Mike Gonidakis, filed a federal lawsuit (against LaRose as Sec. of State) to override the Ohio Supreme Court.

COLUMBUS, May 10, 2023 – Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis watches the Ohio House floor as House Republicans prepared to pass a resolution for an August election proposal to make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Two Trump-appointed judges then forced Ohioans to vote under gerrymandered districts in 2022. The important thing to remember about that decision is that they never said Ohio’s maps were not gerrymandered, just that, because Ohio Republicans ran out the clock, Ohio voters had to vote under them last year.

So LaRose and Gonidakis found a way to override a majority on the state’s highest court, and now they are working together to override a majority of Ohio voters.

LaRose gerrymandered our maps against the constitution, fought for one of the most restrictive elections laws in the country, and is campaigning with an anti-abortion lobbyist to rip away 100 years of voter power. Now he thinks he deserves a promotion to the U.S. Senate.

Over the next few weeks, I expect Ohioans will see their smartphones, computers, and TV sets flooded with wild-eyed conspiracy theories sharing misinformation on reproductive health care, stoking anti-LGBTQ+ paranoia, and warning about radical special interests attacking the Ohio Constitution.

Radical special interests are attacking the Ohio Constitution, with Issue 1 on Aug. 8.

They’re the same special interests who forced Ohio voters to cast ballots in rigged, gerrymandered districts. They’re the same special interests who push laws that make 10-year-old rape victims flee the state for care. They’re the same special interests that have already captured Ohio Republican politicians and walk them around like dogs on a leash, getting whatever they want, all the time, on every issue.

But that’s not good enough for them — not if there’s a chance a majority of voters might disagree or do something they don’t like.

For now, ultimate authority still rests with a majority of Ohioans, so all of them are working overtime to rob that from us too.



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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt