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League of Women Voters holds webinar on citizen ballot initiatives

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio state lawmakers are considering legislation that would make citizen amendments harder to pass.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland will hold a free public webinar Tuesday to discuss potential changes to citizens’ ability to amend the Ohio Constitution.

The panel webinar will include Jen Miller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and historian, former reporter and former state representative Mike Curtain.

Currently, citizens can lead initiatives to amend the state constitution by collecting signatures and getting a simple majority on Election Day. Lawmakers in the Ohio Statehouse are trying to make that process more difficult, Miller said.

“They want to make both the signature gathering process harder as well as require any citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to pass by 60%,” Miller said. “That's like saying that my baseball team made six runs. Yours made four, but you win.”

The League of Women Voters of Ohio has come out against the proposal.

“It’s already very difficult to amend the Constitution. It's very difficult to get enough signatures, let alone pass at the ballot box,” said the League's Jen Miller. “This is an unnecessary power grab by legislators who do not want us to be able to determine our own futures when they are acting out of step with our needs and interests.”

The webinar will focus on the history of citizen initiatives and how voters can use their voices to defend their rights, Miller said.

“It'll be a hearty conversation about why citizen ballot initiatives matter and why we need everyone to raise their voices and defend them right now since they're under attack at the Ohio Statehouse,” Miller said. “We ask every Ohio voter to call their lawmakers to send emails, to show up to hearings, to write letters to the editor, to make clear that broadly, Ohioans support the right to amend the Constitution.”

A majority of Ohio voters support the right to lead ballot initiatives, and the effort to change the process is unpopular, Miller said.

“This is a right that we've had since 1912, and it should not be taken away,” she said. “This effort to make ballot initiatives harder is unnecessary, it's unpopular, undemocratic and should not happen.”

The proposal must pass in both the Ohio House and Senate and then put on the ballot, Miller said.

“If this proposal passes the House and Senate, Ohio voters would have the chance to express their opposition once again,” she said. “We would expect Ohioans to vote no on this amendment, given that we have well over 200 organizations who stand in opposition and that this has been a right that Ohioans have had for over a century.”

The webinar will be held Tuesday at 7:00 pm. The event will take place on Zoom and is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.