Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Ohio Takes Issue with Issue 1

The good people of Ohio have voted, and it wasn't close, as Issue 1 went down to defeat yesterday by a sizable margin. With 99.9% of the vote reported, 57% of Ohioans voted "no" and just 43% voted "yes."

The scheme, as we've noted several times, was to try to sneak this in under the noses of Ohio voters. Turnout for August elections is generally very low, so much so that Ohio Republicans were ready to eliminate them entirely. So, holding this referendum in August ostensibly increased the chances of a wonky, unrepresentative voter sample (translation: disproportionately anti-abortion), and thus success for the pro-Issue 1/anti-abortion forces. It definitely did not work out as planned. In August of last year, Ohio held a primary election for seats in the state legislature, and just 638,000 people showed up. For yesterday's Issue 1 election, by contrast, over 3 million people cast ballots. That's within shouting distance of the turnout for last year's Senate election, which was about 4 million.

There was also another problem. Ohio's Democrats were largely unified against Issue 1, because they rightly saw it as a proxy for abortion rights. Ohio's conservatives, meanwhile, were somewhat divided. Consider this report from M.C. in Dayton, OH:

Montgomery County voter here, so it's a "blue" county. Voting was heavy and steady when my wife and I arrived at the polling place this morning. One interesting observation is that when I give my daughter a ride home from her work (she can't drive, and we pick her up to go grocery shopping), we pass through the northern end of a richer "red" suburb of Dayton, and the lawn sign ratio is one "Yes" sign and ten "No" signs in a little over a mile. When she walks to work, my daughter has previously noted three strong Trump-supporting houses with multiple signs in 2020, but only one of them is advertising for a "Yes" vote on Issue 1.

Reader A.S. in Akron, OH, seconds that observation, and even has a visual to back it up:

I live in a suburban northeast Ohio township surrounded by very rural, very MAGA countryside... I'm talking "Let's Go Brandon," "Fu** Biden" and, of course, "Trump 2024" flags hanging off more fence posts than I care to count.

In these same areas, the "Vote Yes" vs. "Vote No" yard signs are breaking about 2-to-1 in favor of No. Also, anecdotally, there's this (attached), shared recently from a friend on Facebook:

A car festooned with Trumpy bumper
stickers and flags, but also a sign that says 'No on 1'

In case you're looking for the key detail, it's the sign in the back window.

That some meaningful number of generally Republican voters voted in opposition to Issue 1 is also indicated by the heat map of the voting: Issue 1, 2022 Senate voting

The map on the left shows the voting from yesterday. The map on the right shows the voting from the 2022 U.S. Senate race in which Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) defeated Tim Ryan (D). As you can see, all the counties with big cities voted for Ryan and against Issue 1. However, you can also see that there are also 14 counties that voted for Vance last year, but against Issue 1 this year.

So, why weren't conservatives unified behind an obvious anti-abortion maneuver? Undoubtedly, it's because some conservatives are pro-choice. And some of them are just generally resistant to change of any sort. However, we suspect that the biggest problem is that the initiative, as is so often the case with these things, tried to do too much. The assessment from reader C.B. in Beavercreek, OH is instructive:

I support raising the approval level for amending the state constitution. I am generally supportive of the 60% threshold. This is the state constitution and the standard for a 50% + 1 vote to pass an amendment is a little too far inside the margin of error for my taste. I actually support a 55% threshold, but I can live with 60%.

I voted "no" for two reasons.

First, I believe that requiring the signatures of five percent of voters (for governor in the last election) in all 88 counties gives the population of the smallest county (less than 15,000 people) in Ohio potential veto power over a ballot initiative without ever going to the polls. I think this is excessive. The proponents of Issue 1 could have had me at, say 5% of all voters for governor in 60% of all counties (53 counties in total) to match the threshold for passing an amendment.

I felt that the third clause, eliminating the window for ballot "curing," raised the threshold a bit higher than the first two clauses indicate. As an example, there is an amendment to the state constitution in November. The proponents of that amendment submitted nearly 700,000 signatures, of which 495,000 were certified by the secretary of state. By eliminating curing, which completely rules out the possibility of correctable human error, I felt that proposals would need to hit north of 7% in some of these counties. In effect, this was a backdoor way of raising the threshold to put an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot.

I felt that Ohio Issue 1 was overreach, and voted "no" because I felt that 2/3 of the clauses were too poor a public policy to enshrine in the state constitution.

Note that we are not suggesting that C.B. is a conservative, because we don't know. We are merely pointing out that there were some significant structural concerns with Issue 1 that surely must have crossed party lines.

That said, the fundamental dynamic here was definitely pro-choice vs. anti-abortion, with the anti-abortion side taking a big loss. The folks at the anti-abortion activist group Susan B. Anthony List responded to their defeat with a blend of fury and conspiratorial thinking:

It is a sad day for Ohio and a warning for pro-life states across the nation. Millions of dollars and liberal dark money flooded Ohio to ensure they have a path to buy their extreme policies in a pro-life state. Tragically, some sat on the sideline while outsider liberal groups poured millions into Ohio.

This is a gross misrepresentation. Yes, outside pro-choice groups dumped plenty of money in Ohio, but so too did outside anti-abortion groups. The fundamental problem here is that even in a pretty red state, anti-abortion is a minority position. In neighboring Michigan, a ballot proposition to protect abortion passed with 57% of the vote. Yesterday, Issue 1 failed with 57% of the vote. It's not too hard to make a pretty good guess how things are going to shake out in November, when abortion itself is on the ballot in Ohio.

Also driving the success of the pro-choice position, beyond some conservatives who are crossing the aisle, is increased turnout by young people and women. We have a couple of reports from readers that speak to that. First, K.T. in Columbus, OH:

I was a poll worker at the same north Columbus location I worked at last fall. That election featured a high-profile Senate race [Vance vs. Ryan], as well as elections for governor, other state offices, House of Representatives, etc. This week's election included only Issue 1.

Two observations. First, the total numbers of votes cast in the two elections at this location were roughly equal, with only a slight edge to fall 2022. Considering the usually poor turnout for summer special elections—a fact which the Ohio GOP cited for discontinuing summer elections until this one became necessary—this is impressive. Second, and based on general impression rather than anything resembling a real count, there seemed to be a disproportionate number of younger women in yesterday's population.
And J.K. in Cincinnati, OH:
There were 140 "no" votes, 80 "yes" votes at my location. Very much trending generational. A number of older citizens who were just told by their church to vote "yes." Not a lot of understanding of what they were voting for or against.

I don't obviously know most of the votes based on the anonymity of it all, but the people most willing to vocalize it were "yes" and concerned about change and influenced by the fear of what could change.

I voted early, and the people around me were mostly "no" voters. A comment of "How many millions do we have to spend for a single issue no one asked for?" The irony of a 50/50 issue to determine if all future issues needed 60 was not lost on people.

Thanks to J.K., K.T. and all the other readers who wrote in!

A new poll from CNN/SSRS confirms that the Dobbs decision has not lost its salience with voters. According to their numbers, 64% of respondents oppose the decision; that's the same as last July. Meanwhile, 84% of respondents say that a candidate's position on abortion will influence their vote. That includes both anti-abortion and pro-choice voters, of course, but there are more of the latter—again, by roughly a 2-to-1 margin.

The upshot is that anti-abortion activists are going to keep fighting, by hook or by crook, and they are going to keep demanding that Republican candidates for office adopt a staunchly anti-abortion stance. And the result of this, outside of the very reddest states, is that anti-abortion forces are going to keep losing more often than they win, and they are likely going to take some otherwise electable Republican candidates for office down with them. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates