Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Today's the Day in Ohio

It's probably the most dramatic election of the summer (not that there's a lot of competition), so we've been following it closely. And today is the day that Ohioans will finish the process of approving or rejecting Issue 1. As readers will know, thanks to our numerous items on the subject, should Issue 1 pass, it will get much harder to approve ballot initiatives in Ohio, and it will also get much harder to get such initiatives on the ballot.

Whatever happens, it will set the stage for the already-on-the-ballot abortion initiative that Ohio voters are set to consider in November. That initiative is likely to get 50%+1 votes, but probably not 60%+1. So, today's vote is a de facto proxy vote for the fate of abortion access in the Buckeye State. And abortion is not the only issue that is effectively in play today. Ohio is pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats (the former make up about 4% more of the population than the latter), but the state Senate is 26R/7D and the state House is 67R/32D due to aggressive gerrymandering. So, if Issue 1 passes, the state's sizable Democratic minority will be almost completely silenced for a very long time. That includes issues like marijuana legalization, protections for organized labor and, of course, restrictions on gerrymandering, in addition to abortion.

Reader K.T. in Columbus, OH, was kind enough to break down the latest available numbers (through last Thursday). Defining "blue counties" as the 15 in which Tim Ryan (D) earned at least 45.9% of the two-party vote vs. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) in last year's election (Athens, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Hamilton, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Portage, Summit, Trumbull and Wood) and "red counties" as the 73 in which Ryan earned no more than 42.1% of the two-party vote, here's how things break down:

Statewide Total
    2022 turnout: 4,201,368
    In person votes cast so far: 390,330
    Absentee ballots sent so far: 275,443
    Absentee ballots returned so far: 188,162
    Absentee ballots outstanding: 87,281
    Total votes cast: 578,492
    Percent of 2022 total based on votes cast: 13.77%

Blue Counties
    2022 turnout: 2,310,073
    In person votes cast so far: 183,464
    Absentee ballots sent so far: 188,712
    Absentee ballots returned so far: 129,813
    Absentee ballots outstanding: 58,899
    Total votes cast: 313,277
    Percent of 2022 total based on votes cast: 13.56%

Red Counties
    2022 turnout: 1,891,295
    In person votes cast so far: 206,866
    Absentee ballots sent so far: 86,731
    Absentee ballots returned so far: 58,349
    Absentee ballots outstanding: 28,382
    Total votes cast: 265,215
    Percent of 2022 total based on votes cast: 14.02%

By percentage, turnout in blue counties and red counties is pretty even. But the blue counties are more populous, so—without knowing how the ballots are breaking—it looks like the pro-Issue 1 forces are currently in the hole.

The polls also suggest that Issue 1 is in trouble. There have been three recent ones from reputable pollsters, and they average 45% against, 35% for and 20% undecided. Obviously, if more than three-quarters of the undecideds end up voting for the initiative, then it will pass. But three-quarters is a lot, and when voters are undecided on an initiative, they tend to vote for the status quo (so, in this case, against Issue 1).

There's also a little bit of recent historical precedent here, and it argues against Issue 1. Since 2018, South Dakota has tried twice, and Arkansas and Arizona have tried once each, to increase the threshold for ballot propositions, and in all cases the effort went down in flames. The last time such a proposal was successful was back in 2006, with Florida's Amendment 3. Of course, Florida's political situation bears more than a passing resemblance to Ohio's, so maybe that's a good sign for the pro-Issue 1 forces.

And finally, one last indication that the pro-Issue 1 forces may be on the ropes is that the pro-Issue 1 ads are getting desperate. Operating under the assumption that transphobia sells, there are now spots in heavy rotation claiming that voting against Issue 1 will not only help keep abortion legal, it will also help to legalize sex change operations for minors. That is not the case, anymore than it's the case that voting against Issue 1 will increase the minimum wage to $25/hour or outlaw Bible study groups or prohibit gas-powered automobiles. But what's a little lie between friends?

In sum, the crystal ball mostly suggests that Issue 1 is going to fail. We'll know for sure tonight, or maybe tomorrow. And if Ohio readers have reports from on the scene, we'd welcome them. (Z)

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