Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Issue 1, Issue 2 Pass in Ohio, Draw High Voter Turnout

Outcome & Implications

Shortly after 9 p.m. Nov. 7, the Associated Press called the election over Issue 1: the amendment passed with 56.6 percent, meaning nearly 2.2 million voters out of over 3.8 million had voted in favor. 

While the result is still unofficial, a majority of Ohioans voted to pass Issue 1, a constitutional amendment to protect abortion and reproductive rights. Issue 1 will go into effect in the Ohio Constitution at the beginning of December. However, Republican leaders have promised to challenge the measure. Since last election day, 27 Ohio state representatives have signed a letter condemning the passage of Issue 1. 

“We will do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent,” the letter reads. 

Lili Sandler, founder of Lorain County Rising and a member of the executive committee of the Lorain County Democratic Party, spoke to the Review about GOP lawmakers’ plans to challenge the amendment. 

“Issue 1 is a self-executing constitutional amendment,” Sandler said. “It is immediate and irreversible without another ballot issue to re-amend the constitution. The state legislature and governor say they will attempt to do things to change it, but to my understanding that is impossible.”

Executive Chairman of the Lorain County Republican Party David Arredondo said he thought the amendment would be challenged in court.

“I think if you did polling on both of them, people tend to agree that abortion should be allowed,” Arredondo said. “They were saying essentially that if the amendment didn’t pass, there would be no abortion in the state of Ohio. And that’s not true. That’s never been the case. Current case law in Ohio is abortion is allowed up to 22 weeks. The heartbeat bill would have dialed that back to maybe six weeks … I believe that [Issue 1] will be challenged in court, probably going to the Ohio Supreme Court, and may see if a stay is put into effect or not.” 

On Nov. 14, the first anti-abortion policy after Issue 1 entered the Ohio Senate. Republican State Sen. Sandra O’Brien brought forth Senate Bill 159 to the Senate Finance Committee. Her bill aims to allow a tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers, organizations affiliated with pro-life groups that offer services such as pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, as well as advice and educational materials for pregnant individuals. Abortion rights advocates have criticized such resource centers for not providing all available options and discouraging abortion, occasionally dispensing false medical information about the risks of abortion. 

Democratic representatives have also proposed new legislation since the passage of Issue 1. State Representatives Anita Somani and Beth Liston have proposed a bill known as the Reproductive Care Act, which would overturn a current law that bans abortion after six weeks of gestation, as well as remove the 24-hour waiting period for patients to have an abortion and enact protections to prevent employer discrimination based on reproductive health decisions. 

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. Nov. 7, the Associated Press called the election over Issue 2. Like Issue 1, the law will be enacted 30 days after the general election. 

Ohioans voted to legalize and regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, sale, and possession of cannabis by individuals 21 and older. Ohioans above 21 are also now able to home-grow six plants per person and 12 plants per residence, with a requirement of a 10 percent tax for each transaction.

In an unofficial result, the amendment passed with 56.79 percent, constituting nearly 2.14 million out of over 3.8 million voters. 

Issue 2 is a citizen initiative, allowing Ohio lawmakers to propose or make changes to the new law. Republicans including Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman have vowed to amend the law. 

“The General Assembly may consider amending the statute to clarify the questionable language regarding limits for THC and tax rates as well as other parts of the statute,” Huffman stated. 

Oberlin resident John Pardee is president emeritus of the Ohio Rights Group, a cannabis legalization organization. He has previously spoken to the Review about how Issue 2 can be changed due to its status as an initiated statute. He also noted the importance of the rights this amendment grants surrounding use of medical cannabis. 

“Currently, Ohio’s medical cannabis program only recognizes a few dozen qualifying medical conditions,” Pardee wrote in an email to the Review. “Autism, for example, is a [condition] whose symptoms can be ameliorated by cannabis, but is not currently a qualifying medical condition. Folks who suffer from ailments not on the list, that are known to respond well to cannabis, will have a safe and regulated supply if we pass Issue 2.”

The passage of Issue 2 establishes the Division of Cannabis Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce has nine months to finalize rules for the regulation of adult use cannabis operators, testing laboratories, and licensing requirements. This process is expected to be completed, and the first round of adult-use licenses issued, by August. 

New Voter Laws & Turnout

The election was affected by several recent changes in election protocol. In early 2023, the Ohio House passed HB 458, which required voters to present a valid Ohio driver’s license, other state-issued identification, or a passport to cast their vote in Ohio. 

The election was also affected by the removal of names from the ballot rolls in late September. In Lorain County, close to 700 prospective voters were removed from active voter rolls. In total, the Ohio Secretary of State removed over 26,000 voters in the State of Ohio. 

Some have characterized these actions as voter suppression.

“The voter suppression efforts were in full force, from intentionally confusing voters with misinformation to purging 26,000 voters in September to forcing an unnecessary special election in August, further confusing voters,” Sandler wrote. “However, voter turnout was very high for a local election year, so clearly their efforts were unsuccessful.”

Voter turnout for the election was exceptionally high for an off-year. According to the unofficial election results, 50 percent of registered voters in Lorain County went to the polls. In 2021, only 20 percent of registered voters took part in the general election, and 2019 saw  29 percent voter turnout. The turnout is still not as high as the 2022 midterm elections — which had a 52 percent turnout rate in Lorain County — or the 2020 presidential election, with 73 percent turnout.

In Oberlin, turnout greatly varied between precincts. In residential areas, voter turnout was significantly higher. The precinct encompassing Elm and Morgan Streets had a 62.9 percent voter turnout. Meanwhile, areas with dormitories and campus housing had a lower turnout of around 18 percent. 

“It’s notable that in an off-year election, where we’re talking about municipal and township elections and some issues, the turnout is generally in the 30th percentile of voters,” Arrendondo said. 

Oberlin City Councilmember Kristin Peterson, OC ’72, attributed the high turnout to a combination of issues that Lorain County voters were passionate about.

“The top two ballot issues 1 and 2 were a driving force, just like the turnout in August was — not as high as it was now in November, but it was higher than any other special election has been,” Peterson said. “There were already people that were energized to make sure that they went back and voted for Issue 1. Issue 2 also [had] a lot of interest. Issue 20 … had a lot of interest across the county, regardless of where people live, and clearly there was significant opposition to that one.”

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