A small group of protestors gather during a "rosary rally" on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023, in Norwood, Ohio. If voters approve Issue 1, it would make it more difficult for an abortion rights amendment on the November ballot to succeed. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Keep It Rural, an email newsletter from the Daily Yonder. Like what you see? Join the mailing list for more rural news, thoughts, and analysis in your inbox each week.

More Red Tape in Ohio

Passing legislation in Ohio may soon get a whole lot harder.

Today, Ohio voters will decide in a special election whether to raise the approval threshold for passing an amendment to their state constitution from a majority of votes – more than 50% – to 60% of votes. 

The election comes just three months before Ohio’s general election, when an amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution will be voted on. Opponents of the approval threshold proposal, known as Issue 1, say Ohio’s Republican supermajority pushed for an August special election in order to make the November vote on abortion rights more difficult to pass.

But the proposal wouldn’t just affect the November vote on abortion rights. Citizen-led pushes to get issues onto the ballot are also affected by Issue 1, which would require any initiative petition to be signed by at least 5% of electors of each of Ohio’s 88 counties, doubling it from the current requirement of 44 counties. 

The proposal would also eliminate a 10-day period after a petition is submitted for citizen groups to replace or correct invalid signatures, which can happen if someone moves or dies after signing a petition. 

Democrats and Republicans are split on what this change could mean for rural voters. 

Proponents of Issue 1 say petitioners put more time and resources into Ohio’s more urban and suburban counties, ignoring rural counties. Issue 1 could ensure more rural signatures are included on petitions. 

But opponents of the proposal say ballot measures – which are brought forth by initiative petitions – give rural Democrats one of the only opportunities to have their voices heard in Republican-dominated rural counties. Issue 1 would make it harder to get citizen-led measures onto the ballot at all because of the requirement to petition in all 88 counties. 

Results from polls conducted prior to today’s election are not conclusive as to whether Ohio voters will pass Issue 1. A poll analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that 35% of Ohioans support Issue 1, 45% oppose it and 20% are undecided. 

As votes roll in today, the answer to how Issue 1 pans out in Ohio will soon be made clear.

Rural Reading List

Rural Tennessee County Regains Access to Emergency Care After Four Years Without

Jamestown, Tennessee’s hospital closed in 2019, leaving residents a half-hour’s drive from life-saving care. A new freestanding emergency room established by the University of Tennessee Medical Center will bring back emergency medicine.

Commentary: Reckoning With the Loss of Rural Labor and Delivery Departments

Labor and delivery units in rural hospitals are disappearing even with attempts to protect rural healthcare through Critical Access designation.

The Need for Speed: Rural Users Tend to Have Slower Internet Connections

For years, researchers have looked for more reliable ways to measure the gap in broadband speeds between rural and urban areas. A new study based on individual users’ internet speed-tests offers one more way to measure the digital divide.

One More Thing: What I’m Reading

One of my favorite activities is to go antiquing, and yesterday I might have stumbled across my best find yet: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a fictional autobiography by Robert M. Pirsig published in 1974. Indulge me by reading two paragraphs from the first page. If you read last week’s Keep it Rural you’ll understand why they delighted me so much:

“In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis toward the Dakotas. This highway is an old concrete two-laner that hasn’t had much traffic since a four-laner went in parallel to it several years ago. When we pass a marsh the air suddenly becomes cooler. Then, when we are past, it suddenly warms up again.

I’m happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this.” 


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