Post-Mortem on Ohio Issue 1

Map of the Ohio Issue 1 results by county

Image/data from Wikipedia article on Ohio Issue One, map created by “02rufus02” and shared via Creative Commons 4.0 license. Click on image to go to original.

As the nation and possibly the whole world knows by now, Ohio Issue 1, aka the attempt by the Ohio GOP to amend the state constitution so that voter referendums would be come almost impossible to get on the ballot and even harder to pass, was resoundingly defeated, 57% to 43%. Good for Ohio! Nice to see that the individual voters are not that keen on throwing away their right to have their say in the laws and governance of the state, just because a gerrymandered supermajority Republican legislature really really wants to be able to ignore them forever.

I have a few thoughts on this whole exercise, which I will now detail in no particular order.

1. Most obviously (to the people of Ohio, anyway), Issue 1 was about abortion. Which is to say the gerrymandered supermajority Ohio Republican government passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country — currently on pause as the lawsuits about them wend their way through the courts — and then wanted to make sure that the actual citizens of Ohio, who the polls tell us are broadly for basic and sensible abortion access, didn’t overturn their poorly designed, overly-restrictive legislation with a voter initiative about abortion access that is, in fact, qualified for the November ballot. Their plan: a poorly-designed, overly-restrictive proposed constitutional amendment that is an effective ban on any voter initiative. 

That Issue 1 is mostly about abortion rights isn’t just speculation; Frank LaRose, Ohio’s current Secretary of State, said the quiet part out loud, saying it’s “100%” about that, because the GOP these days can’t actually stop monologuing about their evil plans. That it would also toss out the possible marijuana legalization initiative for November, and possible future initiatives on things like raising the minimum wage or redoing the frankly ridiculous gerrymandering in the state, or anything else, was just the cherry on top. At the end of the day, the Ohio GOP wanted to make sure their broadly unpopular laws telling people with uteruses they had no control over their own bodies were never challenged.

2. And it might have worked, too, if the Ohio GOP hadn’t done what shitty people who want to take away rights always do, which was to almost comically overreach. It wasn’t enough to raise the percentage of votes needed to pass a voter initiative from 50%+1 vote to 60%; the polling in Ohio for abortion rights is about 58%-59% percent for, and that’s too close for comfort.

So in Issue 1 the legislature increased the number of counties that qualified signatures for initiatives had to come from: 88, i.e, all of them, up from the current 44. This means that a single county could effectively veto any voter initiative. They also tossed out the 10-day “curing” period, in which initiative backers who discovered some of their signatures were not qualifying could go back and try to correct that, as is currently happening with the pro-marijuana initiative for the November ballot. 

The Ohio GOP might have gotten enough of their own to go for raising the bar from 50%+1 to 60% by itself; you can make a decent structural argument that state constitutions shouldn’t be changed willy-nilly, and that 60% bar would (probably) have served the purpose for the abortion issue, and indeed most other highly partisan issues, since gerrymandered legislature notwithstanding, Ohio is still fairly purplish. But the part about needing every single county to sign off, and tossing out the ability to cure signatures, signaled to even members of the Republican party that the plan here wasn’t to make voter initiatives more difficult to pass, it was to make them almost impossible to get on the ballot at all.

And that cuts both ways. Sure, a small rural county like Putnam (which went 81% “yes” on Issue 1) would reliably put the kibosh on any liberal-ish initiative. But then a large urban county like Cuyahoga (76% “no” on Issue 1) could do the same for conservative-ish initiatives. And the “no cure” bit means you could do nearly everything right in collection and still have it blow up in your face. That marijuana initiative noted above initially failed to qualify for the ballot by less than 700 signatures. I don’t care what side of the political fence you’re on, the idea of not being able to correct an error that small makes it clear this legislature is telling voters they don’t want to have to hear from them no matter what.

One last bit: If Issue 1 had passed, then the voter initiatives that had previously qualified for the November ballot but didn’t meet Issue 1 criteria would be tossed off the ballot. What’s the voter initiative that had previously qualified for the November ballot? Why, the one restoring abortion rights, of course! Just in case you were wondering. 

3. The massive overreach of Issue 1 is why, outside of the current GOP office-holders, there was wide bipartisan support against Issue 1; Republican former governors and Secretaries of State joined their counterparts on the Democratic side and said it was a bad idea. That probably helped to get enough Republican voters to stop marching in step with the state leaders: a state that went 53% for Trump in 2020 went 57% against Issue 1, and even someplace like Darke County, where I live and which went 81% for Trump in 2020, only went for Issue 1 by 75%. Yes, that’s still an overwhelming majority of local voters, but that 6% swing on an issue every current GOP legislator wanted ain’t chicken feed.

These days I don’t credit most conservative voters with a whole lot of independence from their marching orders; their informational ecosystem is so rife with strident messaging and blatant disinformation (more on that in a bit) that the energy required to jump out of it is substantial. On Issue 1, most of them still didn’t — look at the results map, you will see the usual urban/rural voter divide — but enough did that the margin of Issue 1’s defeat was higher than it would have been with just Democrats and independents alone.

Basically, the Ohio GOP had to go out of their way to lose some traditionally GOP voters, and managed to do just that.

4. Another tactical error the Ohio GOP made for Issue 1 was the August special vote. For those who did not know, the Ohio GOP had recently legislated August special elections out of existence, because they were expensive to run and because they traditionally had such low voter turnout that they were questionable exercises from a small “d” democratic point of view. And you know what? I don’t necessarily disagree with them on this point! August votes are often a mess and they typically get dodgy results because mostly people don’t show up to vote!

So what message does it send when the same legislature that voted August elections out of existence takes a ballot issue they’ve designed to fundamentally break how voter initiatives have worked in Ohio for more than a century, and schedule the vote for it in August? The message, more or less: Suck it, Ohio voters, we’re slipping this one past you, ha ha hah ha ha.

But it didn’t work! One, the very act of scheduling an August vote when August voted had so recently been legislated out of existence was a huge damn red flag — it actually was taken to court, where the entirely ridiculous Ohio Supreme Court allowed it on the reasoning of, basically, “it’s different when legislatures do it.” Two, literally the only thing on most voter ballots in Ohio this August was Issue 1, which meant, to the extent there was any voter discussion going on this summer here in Ohio, it was about this singular issue. Three, when the GOP realized that they weren’t just going to be able to slip this one past the voters, they had to start doing messaging about it, which made it even more visible, and of course those opposing Issue 1 did a whole bunch of messaging of their own.

As a result, this August more than three million Ohio voters went to the polls or voted early, more than 38% of all registered voters. By contrast, in the August 2022 special primary, barely 8% of voters showed up to cast a ballot. Issue 1 didn’t slip past voters, it energized them instead, and the August election strategy blew up in the GOP’s face. Which, you know, good

(Interesting note: While the “no” vote carried the early/mail-in ballots by a substantial margin, apparently it also carried the in-person voting too, albeit by a narrower margin. No matter how Ohio voters cast their ballots, “no” carried the day.)

5. The Ohio GOP is already blaming the Issue 1 loss on “dark money” flowing into the state to oppose it, which is some delightful bullshit when you know that largest single contributor to the Issue 1 fight on either side was Illinois resident and noted conservative Richard Uihlein, who contributed $4 million of his own money for the “Yes on 1” effort, and another $6 million came from “Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America,” a DC-based anti-abortion group. The New York Times reported that 80% of the money spent on fighting Issue 1 came from out of state, and that the amounts were roughly equal on both sides.

The GOP blaming of outside money for the defeat of Issue 1, while conveniently ignoring the outside money that flooded in to get it passed, is par for the course for the Ohio GOP, which used all sorts of deceptive messaging to plump for their hobby horse. Here in Darke county, the “Yes on 1” signs had taglines on them like “preserve our constitution” (when in fact Issue 1 was designed to radically change it) and “protect the 2nd Amendment” (which is not in the Ohio state constitution, and is in no danger in Ohio in any event, as we sure do love our guns). The radio ads were worse. 

The blatant dishonesty of the GOP and conservative messaging on Issue 1 is par for the course with their political messaging elsewhere, and it reminds me of two things: The absolute contempt the GOP has for their voters, in that they don’t feel like their voters need or deserve anything close to the truth; and how extremely well-trained GOP voters have become to reject the truth when it is inconvenient for their personal political preferences. As noted before, this particular time, the GOP disinformation regime didn’t work as well as it usually does, and some portion of the usual GOP voters didn’t swallow the bullshit. This will not teach the GOP to back off on the bullshit. It will teach them to shove the bullshit even harder the next time.

In any event, if the GOP wants to whine about “outside dark money” coming into the state to defeat them, they can take it up with the conservative US Supreme Court who, per Citizens United, said all that money flooding the political zone was a-ok by them. Funny how conservative political decisions often come back to bite conservatives on the ass. 

6. Most everyone agrees that Issue 1 was a proxy battle about abortion rights, and with Issue 1 defeated, an abortion voter initiative is on the ballot for November (that is, if the current incredibly cynical lawsuit attempting to have it thrown off the ballot is not successful). Polling shows most Ohioans want some sort of abortion access, so is this new voter initiative now a shoo-in to pass?

The short answer: No. The longer answer: Oh, hell, no. If you think the nonsense messaging and outside money around Issue 1 was ridiculous, wait until the noise machine around abortion access gets up and running. It’s gonna make Issue 1 look like a hugfest. The vote on abortion here in Ohio is likely to be close, and depending on how energized voters are (and which voters are not energized), it could go either way. What will matter is who shows up to vote, and a lot of that will depend on who shows up to message. I guarantee you, the GOP is gonna show up to message. 

7. Which brings me to this point: My personal observation about Democrats and liberals is that many seem to vote to “solve” things, and once they think things are “solved” they let their attention wander off to whatever else it is they are doing. Many republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, seem to vote to “push” things in the direction they want them to go. They are in it for the long term. If as a voter you’re a “pusher” rather than a “solver,” you show up for every damn vote. And they do! Which is why the Ohio GOP scheduled Issue 1 for an August vote in the first place.

I would very much like these particular Democrats and liberals to stop voting to solve things. Nothing is solved if you go “well, my job here is done” and walk off while your political opponents are already planning to hamstring you as you step away. I would like them to start voting to push things, which means showing up to every single voting opportunity and casting their vote.

I mean, for starters; otherwise staying engaged in the political process outside the voting booth matters too. But also, yes, please, fucking vote every time. Don’t just vote in the presidential elections. Vote in the off years. Vote in the off-off years. Vote in the off-months in the off-off years, like in the August of 2023. It matters. Every single time, it matters.

And on that note: See you in November, Ohio. 

— JS


56 Comments on “Post-Mortem on Ohio Issue 1”

  1. Political post so, as always, the Mallet is out. Please be polite to each other or a I will be displeased, thanks.

    Also, while we can all agree that Issue 1 was a proxy battle for abortion access in Ohio, in the comments here do not use this as a soapbox to go on a tangent about the religious/social/moral quandaries of abortion. Stick to it specifically as a political issue here in Ohio. I believe in you and your ability to do this!

  2. ” The Ohio GOP is already blaming the Issue 1 loss on “dark money” flowing into the state to oppose it…”

    As always with them, every accusation is a confession.

    Also, Frank LaRose, who is a truly loathsome individual, couldn’t possibly have deserved this result more.

  3. A spot-on analysis as always. And I doubly agree with you about solving versus pushing. There was a recent kerfuffle in the tabletop RPG arena that a lot of people have declared ‘victory’ on and are going back to what they were doing.

    Me, I’m still on watch. I pay attention and I vote in every election.

  4. A great analysis from the inside, thank you.

    And your last few grafs are spot on: The GOP is committed to the long game. (Just look at the federal courts. How many years did it take to tilt the judgeships so right-ward?) And they are willing to strategize at every level of election to accomplish that. My observation only: Democrats are mostly big-issue voters, which doesn’t often take you down-ticket in the voting booth, or into the booth in off years. Which is historically weird, because in the big-D Democratic city parties of the early 20th-c at least, they fought for (or bought) every damn seat. Tammany Hall paid attention to the small stuff.

    In addition to “voting to solve,” Democrats mostly share a common liberal error of assuming the best of their opponents — that is, they tend to think that their opponents are good at heart, well-intentioned, want the best for their fellow human but disagree on how to get there, etc. It should be clear by now that this is a strategic mistake.

  5. John,

    Thanks for putting all my thoughts on Issue 1 better than I could. Living in Warren County (north of Cincinnati), we got quite a mix of Vote Yes and Vote No TV ads, yard signs, and a few rallys. I am a little disappointed that the No votes did not win by 60% (I’m a big fan of irony).

    I hope Ohio remembers that Larose was in charge of this dumpster fire when he runs for Senator next year.

  6. To your last point, one of the things I like most about living in WA state is that we have mandatory mail in voting. Which means that every issue that I’m gonna vote on, I’ve got a 2-3 week period to look at the ballot, look into the things I’m gonna vote on, fill out my ballot and drop it in the outgoing mail. I wasn’t a disengaged voter in other states I lived in, but finding your polling place, making sure you can get there outside of working hours, etc is just a little bit harder than vote by mail, and so I’d miss some primaries or special elections.

  7. Good analysis. I teach political science at the college level and find that my students (of any political persuasion) are often unaware that elections occur in non-presidential years. Or for that matter, any time other than November.

    Does Ohio require government or civics education at the high school level? My state (CA) requires a half-year course though most of my students tell me that they don’t recall taking one.

    I find the state of our collective political education pretty discouraging.

  8. #7 FTW. So many Democrats seem like they would fail the marshmallow test (I know it’s been discredited, but it’s still a good analogy). They want it NOW! and if they don’t get it, they are going to eat the marshmallow in front of them. A perfect example would be the endless stream of comments around the web calling for Trump to be indicted, convicted, and jailed immediately because we all know he’s guilty. Many Democrats seem to think the world is like TV, with everything wrapped up in a neat little package with a bow in 40 minutes, or, if they are really patient, a six month season.

  9. Richard Uihlein (owner of U-Line office supplies, by the way) is a member of the Uihlein family, which sold off the Schlitz Brewery in a fit of pique when the Brewery Workers union was disrespectful to them during a bitter strike (which the union won). The former Schlitz plant, a block south of our house, is now an office park; the equipment was sold to Nigeria.

    But again I must ask: why do you remain in Darke County?

  10. I also agree on the Pusher/Solver paradigm — it’s why we succeeded in protecting reproductive rights in Michigan last year by an eerily similar 57%-43% margin. A whole bunch of women and young folks got exceptionally active on the grassroots level. It also helped that our state GOP was far more chaotic and disorganized than Ohio’s, however, so we’re wishing our neighbor to the south Godspeed come the Fall elections!

  11. I vote every time but it is so demoralizing when if there’s a choice it’s between a Republican and a fake libertarian. I can’t bring myself to vote in Republican primaries even though that’s probably where I have the most power.

    But I vote, I register people to vote, I write postcards, I donate money. Things were going better and now they’re so much worse.

    I think one thing this ballot initiative shows is that people will come out if their vote matters and isn’t gerrymandered out of existence. That’s one of the things about ballot initiatives — the person in Columbus matters as much as the person in darke county, despite gerrymandering. I hope that OH democrats run people in places where additional turnout could make a difference. That could get people who had given up voting but are out for the initiative to try again next time.

  12. Why i think 50%+1 isn’t a good rule for amending any state’s constitution, this wasn’t about changing that so i’m thrilled it lost.
    If it was, the bill would have looked vastly different without all those county restrictions/requirements.

    I will separately say that the one disagreement i have above is – the Ohio SC wasn’t wrong with their decision around August date. The Ohio constitution does allow the legislature to select the date as needed. It’s there, like so many other states, primarily to deal with emergencies like filling vacancies. But.. like so many things in government, it was written open-ended, the “just in case” mindset, with the assumption that everyone understands that and nobody will abuse it.

    And.. we found that the modern GOP will 100% abuse it. Trump did with the horribly written definition of ‘National Security’ (same mindset from the US Congress) and now the Ohio SecState did. Smart people would use this as a reason to push reviewing and updating all these rules, tightening them to be what they were actually meant for, even if that causes small issues in the margins. But as noted, the GOP tends to be the group that pushes, Democrats have ‘solved’ their issue of the moment and will, once again, move on… happy with the momentary success.

  13. Good for Ohio.
    Far better than my state of Mississippi where signatures must be distributed among 5 congressional districts and there are only 4 districts.

    Since there’s bound to be at least one, comments suggesting jettisoning Southern states are ignorant nonsense.

  14. As the saying goes, Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.

    There is an entire alternative and fact-free GOP Cinematic Universe dedicated to lying to Republican voters. This is beyond people choosing news with a particular slant; it’s an entire propaganda machine that cheerfully and deliberately lies to its base.

  15. As a Canadian (where we have a constitution that is, ahem, constitutionally impossible to change), my first thought when I heard about issue 1 and changing the threshhold to 60% was “well that’s a shitty thing to do, just to prevent abortion rights, but… 60% is a better number than 50.”

    Then I heard about the other parts of issue 1 (from you), and changed my thoughts to exclude everything from the first comma!

  16. I have consistently underestimated the Ohio republican party. It’s easy to believe that issue 1 was a proxy for reproductive rights.. and LaRose said as much. Deep down, I believe it is about power. Abortion, LGBTQ+, and other topics are what they use to get their base out to vote, but they really don’t care about those issues. What they want is to stay in power… They move positions because of term limits, but they never move away from the positions of power. They are immune to all but the most severe consequences for their corruption and they want to keep it that way.

  17. Nice to read, that this thing came out as you hoped for.

    And yes, this did indeed (for some reason) make international news. I wonder if newspapers in America are also as diligent to keep their readers up-to-date on referendums on sub-national levels in foreign countries.

  18. It’s worth challenging the easy assumption that supermajorities are a good thing. They are intrinsically undemocratic and conservative so need much stronger arguments in support than they usually get.

    A supermajority requirement in effect gives some past set of decision makers – quite possibly long dead voters – greater power than a majority of the current electorate.

    We don’t apply that logic to governments or representatives. It would be completely bizarre to say “This year candidate A beat candidate B by 55% to 45%, but because in the election four years ago Candidate B won 61%, they retain power for the next four years.” It should be just as bizarre to apply that approach to other democratic choices.

    The argument presented is usually that there is intrinsic virtue in constitutional stability, so change should be made deliberately difficult. That’s superficially attractive, but it’s still another way of saying that a majority can be overruled by a minority. There would have to be some pretty powerful evidence of better outcomes for that even to begin to be justified, but I don’t think I have ever seen a serious attempt to make that case.

    Indeed, the argument is stronger in the opposite direction – where past choices are made too hard to change, negative consequences can be clear to see – the completely distorted position of the Supreme Court in the US political system being one obvious example.

  19. Remember that Ohio has a population larger than many proud and fabled nation-states; and that Trump’s win in 2020 in Ohio, traditionally a bellwether state, has been used as an excuse to question the legitimacy of election results in other states.

  20. Way to sneak “monologuing” in there. Now if you could have also figured out a way to mention “capes” and the attendant sucking into jet engines #incredibles

  21. @Michael J.
    True, that there are many nations, that have smaller populations than Ohio.

    And I wasn’t questioning the importance of ohionian referendums for Ohioners or the USA or people interested in ohiolandish topics. I was just questioning the decision of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” or the “Berner Zeitung” to report on that such prominently.

    There have been more consequential debates in neighboring France for example that they’ve reported less about.

  22. I have voted in almost every election held in Ohio since I was 18, either in-person or by mail-in ballot. Not bad for 50 years. I shall continue to vote in every election. I guess thst makes me a pusher. Ok. I will continue to push the things I believe in. Someone has to – it might as well be me.

  23. @Stefan
    I think that one can make a good argument for supermajorities when it comes to changing consitutions. In systems that have Supreme Courts constitutions are indeeded to limit the scope in which laws can be made. Those scope within laws can be made should really have more longevity than the laws themselves.
    Please note that I’ve argued for supermajorities for consituational amendments not for supermajorities for laws. If I understand the American political system correctly there are even inbuild supermajorities for laws.
    In a system with a Supreme Court (Switzerland doesn’t have a Supreme Court equivalent to the United States. That is what allows in this system to have several iniatives to change the constitution by popular vote per year…), such a threshold can uphold stability.
    On the other hand: As I see it from outside, the American consitution is far too inflexible. For example: For decades you’re debating on what “well-regulated militia” means. I believe a democratic republic should be able and also should actually adapt and clarify its constitution when its wording becomes unclear. (or when its constitution needs to be updated due to changing times)
    Instead it seems that some sort of constitutional exegesis has developed in your country in which scholars debate on what the fathers of the consitution might have intended with their words in the 18th century.

  24. “And it might have worked, too, if the Ohio GOP hadn’t…increased the number of counties that qualified signatures for initiatives.”

    They will be smarter about it next time. There will be a next time because as JS points out, the GOP are pushers. They will keep pushing this.

    Good job Ohio, but don’t take your foot off the pedal now either.

  25. You hit it on the head with the pusher/solver thing.

    My take is: things break down over time. So – maintaining them requires developing good habits. You wear your seat belt every time you drive – and pretty soon it feels weird to not do so. You brush your teeth and bathe on a schedule. And you need to learn to vote, habitually, in every election, if you don’t want society to rot. Because there are people out there actively working to tear it down. Don’t let them. It should feel weird and wrong to not vote – develop that habit, and encourage it in your peers.

  26. This ostensibly bodes well for the November ballot initiative to restore abortion rights.

    I suspect 57% will vote for it.

    But $5 says that AFTER the initiative succeeds, Ohio Republicans will find a way to keep abortion illegal.

    Want to restore abortion rights? Vote out the anti-abortionist legislators, and state officials.

  27. I think this might be the first peal of the death knell of the GOP. They are trying the same tactics everywhere and the scare tactics are getting old because nothing scary has shown up.

    They have played this tune while the rest of the population has been trying to get their attention. The GOP has refused, so I think the general population has reasons for high turnouts at elections across the country.

  28. Yeah, I might almost agree that 60% isn’t a bad thing, it was the rest of it (which none of the billion godawful offensive ads ever mentioned) that was the problem.

    Good to see that my extremely red county (Geauga) went “no” in the end. Now let’s just keep it up!

  29. Glad to see it get a pretty decisive vote. Much like Kansas last year and hopefully Arizona next year.

  30. “Nothing is solved if you go “well, my job here is done” and walk off while your political opponents are already planning to hamstring you as you step away.”

    Amen. And this is why we need a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to guarantee abortion rights.

    Supreme Court rulings and Executive Orders can be overturned. They are no safeguard for basic rights. Lincoln knew that the Emancipation Proclamation could have been nullified by the Supreme Court or the Congress, so he fought for the 13th Amendment.

    After Roe v. Wade, liberals decreed victory and left the battlefield, giving abortion opponents a half century head start on overturning that decision. It was lazy. It was stupid. It was short-sighted. And we are now, rightly, paying the price of complacency. I’ve heard people whining that passing a new Constitutional Amendment is “too hard”. Yes, it is. It should be. But the alternative is a state-by-state hardscrabble fight that leaves us, as in antebellum America, a patchwork nation.

    We are going to be fighting for abortion rights state by state anyway. Let’s fight for something that CANNOT be walked back later: an amendment protecting bodily integrity.

  31. I didn’t realise that the counties would have ended up with such power under Issue 1. I was listening to the 538 politics podcast and they didn’t talk about the increase difficulty of getting initiatives on the ballot due to Issue 1. However, they did talk about was that Florida raised the threshold to 60% for passing all ballot measures in 2006 and 41% of the amendments that have failed since would have passed without the restriction. Food for thought.

  32. “ But also, yes, please, fucking vote every time. Don’t just vote in the presidential elections. Vote in the off years. Vote in the off-off years. Vote in the off-months in the off-off years, like in the August of 2023. It matters. Every single time, it matters.”


  33. “But also, yes, please, fucking vote every time.”

    Yes, I do, among other reasons because I still feel guilty about a school board election I missed literally decades ago.

  34. @Michael Fuss

    I think you are illustrating the point I was making. You said that:

    “In systems that have Supreme Courts constitutions are indeeded to limit the scope in which laws can be made. Those scope within laws can be made should really have more longevity than the laws themselves.”

    You imply that is self-evident, you certainly don’t give any reasons why that should be true. Constitutions are just laws and in democracies, laws can be changed by the will of the majority. If a minority can enforce its will on a majority, that very clearly undermines democratic principles.

    Now it may be that there are reasons in some circumstances why the minority should block the majority. But to my mind, they would have to be very powerful reasons to counter what would otherwise be the fundamental principle that democracy should prevail.

    What are they?

  35. Decades ago, I think during the Reagan administration, the Republican party decided to embrace a policy of “no race too small to fight for.” Didn’t matter if the election was for the county dogcatcher, the Repubs would put up a candidate, and they’d fight tooth and nail to win the election.

    At the time, a lot of folks pooh-poohed the idea – who cares what party the dogcatcher aligns with, anyway? But when a fair chunk of the opposing party only cares about electing the top official in the land, you can get a whole lot of what you want by making sure that as many of the folks below that top official are in your party, not his/hers.

    Absolutely, we all need to grasp the concept that voting is not a one-and-done proposition, and we don’t “solve” a damned thing by marking a ballot once every four years. We achieve incremental change by coming back to vote in every single election, even for dogcatcher, by pushing for the future we want to see – because if we don’t, that minority that is so desperately trying to hold onto power is going to succeed in doing so.

    Good piece of writing, Mr. Scalzi. Thank you.

  36. @Stefan:
    Basic human rights come to mind as examples that should not be able to be abolished by a narrow majority.
    The rules on the book on how laws are made and on how election are held should also not be able to be changed by a simple majority.
    Or fundamental characteristics of the republic like it being federal and the rights and roles of states within the system should not be able to by changed by a narrow majority.

    When it comes to basic human right – those should always be guarranteed.
    When it comes to the rules by how the republic works, there some qualified majorities should be necessary.

    Just imagine a scenario in which some day the American people would vote a very narcissitic President into office whose enormous self-confidence would in no way be kept in check by some sort of moderation. Imagine furthermore that this hypothetical President would want to declare himself God-Emperor of America and make this title inheritable by his offspring. Furthermore imagine that he somehow hypnotized his followers and his party to follow him in whatever stupid direction he wants to lead them:
    Do you really want him to be able to pass his constitutional changes with a 50%+1 majority?

  37. I just find it interesting that often when the GOP goes, “Okay y’all, vote for this thing we want to do” the public goes, “No, we don’t want you to do that.” But then when the public is asked, “So are you going to re-elect those guys who tried to force through that thing you don’t like?” they’re like, “Yeah, because they share my values.”

  38. @Aaron Dow
    Well the question is whether they vote for the GOP because they share their values or if they vote for the GOP because they don’t share the values of the Democrat Party.

    I imagine there might be voters of the GOP who vote for this party because they’re for absolutely unrestrained entrepreneurial freedom (imagine fans of Elon Musk) but who have no emotional affiliation to the religious conservatism of that party.

    That’s another of the enormous downsides of a two-party-system: In other democracies the GOP would be two to three or even more different parties (and the democrats as well).
    And well, I think that the base of the Republican Party is somehoe better at putting up with this situation the two-party-system places them into.

  39. I am a fairly conservative/moderate person depending on the issue. In many ways, I feel I don’t have a party.

    With that as perspective, I have to agree with point 7, “My personal observation about Democrats and liberals is that many seem to vote to “solve” things, and once they think things are “solved” they let their attention wander off to whatever else it is they are doing. Many republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, seem to vote to “push” things in the direction they want them to go.”

    For years, I said both sides had the same general idea of what this country should be. The difference was Republicans looks for solutions to get there based on the world as it currently exists and Democrats based their solutions assuming we were already there.

    I still think there is a lot of truth to that, at least in the middle 40% where the swing voters live. It’s the 30% extremists on the far side of each spectrum that make it hard to hear the common sense.

    Politics is not a sporting event, and the sportification of elections has serious consequences when everything is boiled down to Red v Blue. As someone who thinks he’s one of the 40%, skewing right, general elections are painful experiences. Do I vote for the crazed populists who tap into a national anger that goes beyond party or do I vote for the reasonable sounding, traditional politician knowing that the extremists on that side only see voters as a base to maintain, through oppressive policies if necessary.

    Knowing that going into the polls, I’m glad this initiative failed. While no state wants to be California with what sounds like dozens of crazy ballot initiatives every election, no state wants to be the one that uses democracy to end democracy. I could get behind a 60% threshold, Congress requires 66% for amendments, but every county and no corrections would make this a no go for me.

  40. @Michael Fuss

    Do you really want him to be able to pass those constitutional changes with a 60%+1 majority?

    If not, it’s not really the voting threshold which is the issue in that example.

    More generally, your argument is effectively that the votes of people who oppose change should be weighted more heavily than the votes of people in favour of it.

    I can easily see why some people would prefer such a system, but self-interest is not the same as democratic principle.

  41. Ohio republicans have tried to restrict absentee voting.

    My wife and I got “Vote Yes On 1” mailings, with two absentee ballot applications inside.

    The best thing to do in Ohio is to work to vote out every single republican holding office in the state, from governor to local dogcatcher.

  42. Dear Stefan,

    Please look up “tyranny of the majority.”

    If you truly believe that democracy is a perfect concept, free from flaws that require checks and balances, then you are not talking about the real world. Nor about any governmental system that has ever existed nor is likely to exist.

    pax / Ctein

  43. @Colonel Snuggledorf

    Not just no race to small to fight, but also that when they get a position, elected or in a private role in business, the first criteria they always look at is who is a good little conservative for the role. If you’ve ever had a conservative as boss, or seen a conservative handing out loans or grants, or delivery of any services, their first criteria is not the best for the role or the most deserving applicant, it is who will fall in line with them and help push the agenda. Everything is either campaigning or sinecure.

    The same damn thing, just a little quieter and without the religion angle, is being played out in the UK too. Who is a deserving little conservative, they shall get their reward, and if you aren’t, then starve. That is why, to my mind, there can never be such a thing as a legitimate conservative government. They are all based on lies, corruption, greed, and suppression.

  44. Michael Oliver: “Abortion, LGBTQ+, and other topics are what they use to get their base out to vote, but they really don’t care about those issues.” No, they absolutely care. They will shamelessly exploit them to get voters out but many of them are true believers. Not necessarily for the stated reasons (misogyny explains more than “save the helpless baby!”) but they do believe.
    On Issue 1 I noticed that as in Florida some years back, the Chamber of Commerce supports making it harder to pass amendments. No surprise: it’s much easier to get the legislature to do their bidding than the voters at large, I would think.

  45. @CrypticMirror: and that is exactly what happened to the federal judiciary under the last administration. An assembly line of candidates whose sole qualifications were 1) they were under 40 and 2) they were Federalist Society members were appointed to the bench. Not even ‘distinguished conservative jurist’ level; multiple recent law grads who admittedly had never been in a courtroom or done much besides write a few briefs got thrown black robe and told to go forth and own the libs.

  46. Props to Scalzi: You are the first “commentator” I’ve come across who pointed out the 88 counties thing and the 10-day cure period thing. Everyone else was just focusing on the 60% thing. And I like that you admitted the important point that a 60% threshold to change a constitution is not unusual or illogical by itself.

  47. Add my voice to the chorus insisting that supermajority requirements for referenda are okay, the only place where they are okay. The other provisions of this were poison and defeating it was good. But in Florida I voted yes to impose a clean 60% requirement for passing Amendments, just to cut down on the astroturf initiatives and stupid ideas. It worked for that, and turned out not to be an obstacle to passing felon re-enfrachisement, medical pot, and non partisan redistricting. Though of course the Legislature did what it could to kneecap those after they passed.

    With respect to point 7, this is the key. The flip side of “solver” politics is accepting defeat on what should be your hills to die on, like labor and abortion rights. The D Party took a loss on Taft-Hartley that it has never even tried to re-litigate after 70 years. The Hyde Amendment is headed for similar unchallenged longevity. This is a big problem, and if people stopped trying to solve shit and concentrated on making the world better we could move a lot faster.

  48. Amending the US Constitution is much more difficult than amending state constitutions.

    “The U.S. Constitution is difficult to change and has only been amended 27 times. State constitutions, on the other hand, are much easier to modify, and state constitutional amendments are adopted on a regular basis. The current constitutions of the 50 states have been amended around 7,000 times.

    States vary in how often they amend their constitutions. The constitutions of Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and California are amended more than three to four times per year, on average. At the other end of the spectrum, the Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Vermont constitutions are amended only once every three to four years on average.”

  49. I’m glad for the outcome, but I also agree with you that allowing 50% to change the constitution is dangerous. It creates an opportunity for tyranny by the majority, one of the main things a constitution exists to prevent. In particular I’d be worried about Republicans in ohio using their slight majority to push other Republican priorities into the constitution.

    So I think it would be in Democrats’ interest to raise the amendment threshold after the abortion vote. Ideally, in combination with a change that allows 50% referendums to pass new laws (which are subservient to the constitution).

    However, as you say, Democrats will probably forget to push this improvement after they deal with the immediate abortion threat.

  50. I’ve reached the life goal of being able to say “well, actually” to you, John. The losing proposed amendment to the Ohio constitution, Issue 1, would not have applied to the potential weed legalization in November.

    That weed initiative actually would act to place a statute (a.k.a. a ‘law’) on Ohio’s books in the Ohio Revised Code legalizing weed. It would not amend our state’s Constitution. The annoying Issue 1 would have changed the rules for constitutional amendments, not for the rather peculiar statutory changes the weed initiative proposes. BTW, the supporters of the weed initiative are currently waiting to see if it is on the ballot. They’ve submitted additional signatures and are waiting for LaRose’s sign-off.

    Having said that, I agree with your take. One thing worth adding is the way the Republicans over the last month have lied repeatedly about the proposals and their effect on “parents rights.” Mike Pence: “Democrats want to keep the threshold as low as possible so they can pass abortion on demand, so they can advance their extreme gender ideology agenda and take away parents’ rights in education…” I’m afraid that the next three months will see a flood of generic anti-LGTB, and specifically anti-trans ads, aimed to confuse voters about the pro-choice proposal. In the process of canvassing about Issue 1, I had real live people tell me that Issue 1 would allow kids to transition without their parents’ consent. First of all, no it wouldn’t, and second of all, WTF?

    There has also been some rumbling about an effort to re-amend the constitution next year, so as to once again try to get rid of the gerrymandering the current Republican supermajority has imposed. We’ll see.

%d bloggers like this: