Return to News May 19, 2023

One Person One Vote Campaign, Ohio Voters Mount Legal Challenge Against August 8 Special Election

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On behalf of several Ohio voters and One Person One Vote, a citizen-driven grassroots coalition dedicated to preserving majority rule in Ohio, Elias Law Group filed a challenge to Ohio’s improper attempts to bypass its own clear statutes to obtain approval of an undemocratic measure that would make it significantly harder for Ohio’s voters to amend the state constitution through direct democracy. The legal challenge was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court last Friday, May 12, and the merit brief was filed yesterday evening.

One Person One Vote and Ohio voters initiated the action two days after Ohio officials set a special election on August 8 -- for the purpose of asking voters to approve an amendment to the Ohio Constitution to increase the popular vote threshold to adopt new constitutional amendments from a simple majority to a sixty percent supermajority -- in direct violation of Ohio law.

“For over a century, Ohioans have had the right to amend their Constitution by simple majority vote,” said Elias Law Group Counsel Emma Olson Sharkey. “That right has been a pillar of democracy for generations. Recognizing that Ohioans are not likely to give up that bedrock right easily, the Ohio General Assembly and Secretary of State Frank LaRose are attempting to avoid a full and fair vote on the matter, breaking the General Assembly’s own laws in the process. Secretary LaRose understands that statewide special elections in August have extremely low turnout and burden taxpayers, voters, and election officials. He said so himself. That is why the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting them. The decision to submit the amendment in this unlawful August special election is a cynical play for more power at the expense of Ohio voters. This special election is clearly improper, and we are honored to work with One Person One Vote and Ohio voters to fight to protect democracy for Ohioans.”

The brief filed Thursday evening points out that Secretary LaRose has recognized that special elections “aren’t good for taxpayers, election officials, voters or the civic health of our state,” and that when you submit an issue to voters at a special election the low turnout means that “just a handful of voters end up making big decisions … This isn’t how democracy is supposed to work.” As a result, “just five months ago, the General Assembly amended Ohio law to prohibit statewide elections in August under any circumstances. Now, it has passed a joint resolution calling for just such an election. […] And instead of following Ohio law, Secretary LaRose is already taking steps to carry out the illegal election.”

“Our complaint asks the Ohio Supreme Court to call this election what it is: illegal. Just five months ago the General Assembly specifically prohibited all statewide special elections in August. Secretary LaRose explained that August elections have ‘embarrassingly low’ turnout and are bad for taxpayers, election officials, voters, and the civic health of our state. To that end, the General Assembly revised Ohio law to allow elections only during November, March, or May and they’ve done nothing since that time to change the law. Constitutional amendments may be voted on in November, March or May – not August – and we’re confident the Court will agree.” said Dennis Willard, spokesperson for One Person One Vote.

Read the complaint here, and the merit brief here.