Abortion was not on the ballot as Ohioans took to the polls in a high stakes referendum, but the contentious issue was clearly on the mind of voters in the Republican-dominated state’s special election Tuesday.

Ohio’s State Issue 1 became a proxy battle over abortion before it was convincingly rejected by voters on Tuesday, defeating an attempt by Republican lawmakers to make it more difficult for the public to propose and approve changes to the Buckeye State’s constitution.

The defeated amendment would have raised the threshold to pass a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60% and added more hurdles to the process which allows for citizen-initiated ballot measures.

If it had passed, it would have had instant implications for a measure on November’s ballot that could enshrine abortion rights in Ohio’s constitution.


Sign telling Ohio voters to vote no

A sign urging voters to vote “no” on Issue 1 in Ohio’s Aug. 8 special election stands planted in the grass on the outskirts of a parking lot in front of the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. Ohioans are voting on whether to make it harder to amend the state’s constitution – a decision that could impact another upcoming November vote on abortion rights in the state. (AP Photo/Samantha Hendrickson)

“Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state’s constitutional amendment process. This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions,” President Biden said in a statement. “Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.”

The result was a rare defeat for Republican power in Ohio, a one-time premiere battleground state that has trended red in recent election cycles and where the GOP controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, attorney general and both chambers of the state legislature.


The sound defeat of Ohio’s Issue 1 appears to be the latest victory for the abortion rights movement since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned the landmark nearly half-century old Roe v. Wade ruling, which allowed for legalized abortions nationwide. The decision by the high court moved the divisive issue of abortion back to the states. 

Abortion rights advocates won high-profile votes last year in Michigan and Kansas, and the GOP’s stance on abortion was blamed by plenty of political pundits for turning an expected red wave in last November’s midterm elections into a red trickle.

Ohio State Issue 1

An attendee uses a sign to shield the sun during a “rosary rally” on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023, in Norwood, Ohio. A national religious organization, Catholics for Catholics, gathered a lineup of anti-abortion influencers and conspiracy theorists from across the U.S. to speak at the rally to urge a “yes” vote on a ballot question in Ohio, known as Issue 1. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Tuesday’s vote in Ohio may be another warning sign for Republicans that the issue of abortion may hinder their chances of victory in the 2024 elections.


“The vast majority of Republican candidates are pro-life, but I think there’s a recognition that there are political complications with the issue. It’s been put on the ballot in several right leaning states and the voters have rejected efforts to further curb abortion rights,” veteran Republican strategist Ryan Williams told Fox News.

“It’s a thorny issue that Republican candidates will have to address carefully,” he emphasized.

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