By Dalton Nolan
Though American democracy is flawed, many would argue that the existence of some form of democratic system is better than none. However, Ohio Republicans, in tandem with the rest of the Republican Party, are weakening what little democracy Americans possess. While the Republican parties have placed much of its rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community, especially with numerous Transphobic laws, in the past decade, this has not stopped the Republican Party from attacking other longstanding democratic traditions in America.
In the case of Ohio, Ohioans are allowed to make constitutional amendment initiatives—the action of the people proposing amendments to a constitution for a government to assess and decide on passing. The constitutional amendment initiative process requires that any potential initiative must have support in at least 44 counties, and in the event the petition lacks the total needed signatures, there exists a 10-day grace period where more signatures can be secured. Yet, for Ohio Republicans, democracy and ground-up policy proposals must be restricted. The Republican-dominated Ohio State Assembly is holding a statewide special election in August to determine if the current law will remain in place or be replaced by a new law, Senate Bill 92 (SB 92), that requires petitions to have support in 88 counties (Ohio possesses only 88 counties) and would remove the 10-day grace period. This new law would effectively require that any petition must get all of Ohio to support it to even be considered.
If SB 92 were to pass, the likely future would entail that any meaningful initiative would have to suffer from damaging compromises that would leave the petition dead in the waters, especially if we are to remember that ground-up policy proposals are exceptionally far more expensive since many people-led organizations lack the funds of massive political organizations or corporate-backed organizations. This attack on democracy in Ohio is part of a series of trends following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which resulted in conservatives and reactionaries beginning to restrict abortion access (to near elimination). Despite this resolution’s language, the likelihood is that this law is designed to weaken any progressive policy initiatives; since, in November, a constitutional amendment introduced through the initiative process is set to be voted on. The amendment, named the “Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion,” would enshrine abortion access in Ohio and eliminate state penalization of the individual right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions regarding contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.”
Despite APVoteCast’s 2022 polling showing that 59% of Ohioan voters supporting access to abortion, Ohio Republicans are introducing this new resolution to combat future progressive legislative initiatives. Thus, Republicans rather attack democracy than allow democracy to result in more progressive policy initiatives. In the immediate aftermath of the presentation of SB 92, hundreds marched onto the statehouse in protest. In addition, groups, such as the labor-led We Are Ohio coalition, are fighting back against this apparent attack on our democracy.