(The Center Square) – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose believes there is literally too much in the Ohio Constitution.
The 67,000 words in the state constitution contains things that have no place in the constitution, according to LaRose, and he announced he supports a joint resolution introduced Thursday in the Ohio General Assembly to make it harder to add more.
State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, introduced the resolution that, if passed by the General Assembly and approved by voters, would require a 60% voter approval for any citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to pass. General Assembly amendments would still need only a simple majority.
“The Ohio Constitution is supposed to serve as a framework of our state government, not as a tool for special interests,” LaRose said. “If you have a good idea and feel it deserves to be within the framework of our government, it should require the same standard for passage that we see in both our United States Constitution and here in our own state Legislature. Requiring a broad consensus majority of at least 60% for passing a petition-based constitutional amendment provides a good-government solution to promote compromise.”
Democrats called the move anti-democratic.
“Once again, Republicans want to change the rules to increase their own stranglehold on power,” said House Minority Leader Allison Russo said, D-Upper Arlington. “This is an attempt to erase the voices of Ohio voters and intentionally create barriers between citizens and their democracy.”
If approved by voters by a simple majority, the change would be the same as required in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Wyoming and Florida, where 60% majorities are needed to pass state constitutional amendments.
According to LaRose, only two amendments passed by voters in the past 22 years have failed to meet the 60% benchmark.
The resolution, which will not change how citizen amendments get to the ballot, comes as the General Assembly continues in a lame duck session for about another month. LaRose said he hopes that session means quick passage, so it can be placed on the ballot in May.
It also comes amidst the growing potential for a citizen-led ballot measure to guarantee the right for women to have an abortion in Ohio.
“If this is about one specific issue, then somebody it is not really focused on what we are trying to accomplish here,” LaRose said. “If something has 60% then it will pass. Something as serious as amending our founding document should not be passed with 50% plus one.”
LaRose said only two of the five citizen-led amendments in the last 22 years that have passed have failed to meet the proposed new threshold.