COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With just less than a week left until the August special election, campaigns for and against Issue 1 are spending millions of dollars on televised advertisements to grab voters’ attention before they cast their ballots.
NBC4 Investigates continues to fact-check those ads.
Ohioans will decide on Aug. 8 whether to make it more difficult for citizens to amend the Constitution. If passed, Issue 1 would require all future citizen-initiated amendments to win at least 60% of the vote to pass instead of the simple majority currently needed.
To get an initiative on the ballot, groups would have to collect signatures from 5% of registered voters in all 88 Ohio counties, an increase from the current 44-county requirement. An existing 10-day curing period for groups who did not gather enough valid signatures would be eliminated.
Protect Our Constitution is the group formed in support of Issue 1. In a commercial that began airing the week of July 23, the group appeals to the nation’s founding.
“Our founders developed the best governing document in human history: the U.S Constitution,” a narrator says. “They knew to set the minimum threshold for changes at 66%. Our constitution allows special interests to amend it with just a 50% vote.”
Dan Kobil, a professor of constitutional law at Capital University’s law school, said the claim is “premised on a combination of bad civics and bad math.”
A constitutional amendment in Ohio currently requires a simple majority vote from citizens to pass.
Citizens do not vote to amend the U.S. Constitution. Rather, an amendment can be proposed by 66% of both chambers of Congress or by 66% of state legislatures. Then, the proposed amendment must be ratified by 75% of the states — again, in the legislature.
“It’s not just a supermajority. It’s a super-duper majority,” Kobil said. “So their premise that this 60% limit is close to what the founders had is inaccurate.”
On the other side of Issue 1, One Person One Vote is the group opposed to making it harder to amend Ohio’s constitution.
“Special interests spend millions lobbying corrupt politicians to call a special election this August,” a narrator says in their ad, over the sound of chirping crickets. “Why? Because they’re trying to sneak something through, hoping you won’t vote.”
The main example of what this group calls “special interests” — referenced throughout their campaign — is Richard Uihlein. The billionaire from Illinois donated to Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of an August special election, and recent financial disclosures show Uihlein also gave $4 million to Protect Our Constitution.
In fact, the majority of both sides’ funding comes from out-of-state sources, according to recently released financial reports.
The “vote no” ad also implies that supporters of Issue 1 are banking on low turnout in an August election.
That claim appears to be based on data kept by the Secretary of State, showing 638,708 ballots cast in an August 2022 special election, amounting to a roughly 8% turnout.
As early and absentee voting is underway in the upcoming special election, the Secretary of State’s data shows that as of July 31, 405,692 Ohioans voted.
When asked of his previous opposition to August special elections during an NBC4 debate, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a prominent backer of Issue 1, said “a constitutional amendment is not flying below the radar, and that’s a good thing. We’re seeing large turnout and that makes us happy. It’s a great thing that Ohioans are aware of this and have the ample opportunity to participate.”