Ballot Issues for 2016

2014 Election Review + What's Next for Ohio

Several citizen-initiated ballot issues are pending and awaiting the winds of momentum and the traditionally higher voter turnout of a presidential election year. The backers of the proposed Ohio Freedom to Marry, Cannabis Rights and Voter Bill of Rights Amendments have each respectively cleared statutory administrative hurdles with the Attorney General and the Ohio Ballot Board, but none has yet secured the minimum 385,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. Gay marriage may be resolved before the 2016 general election but it, along with medical marijuana are the likely contenders to appear on the ballot, while voters’ rights issues remain statutory issues for the state legislature.

Gay Marriage

If nationwide trends hold true, Ohio’s current (anti)-gay marriage amendment is merely awaiting a death certificate from the Federal courts, and Freedom to Marry Amendment supporters – who seek to reverse Ohio’s 2004 amendment prohibiting the State from recognizing gay marriages—may claim victory without an election. An Ohio Federal District Court has already held that the current amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals now has the issue. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court left undisturbed lower court rulings that essentially legalized gay marriages in 30 states.

Cannabis Rights

For cannabis supporters, numerous polls show over 70 percent of Ohioans generally supportive of a regulated use of medical marijuana, leaving as its primary hurdle raising the funding needed to gather signatures.

Voter Bill of Rights

The Voter Bill of Rights, on the other hand, has the support of Democratic legislators but the lack of funding and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of current State law give it little chance of momentum or significant support.

Constitutional Reform by State Legislative Initiative

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, comprised of lawmakers and public members, was created to improve the state constitution. The Commission is currently looking at the Constitution through a modern-day framework, assessing current problems and forming suggestions of desired changes. The Commission has organized standing and subject matter committees, including those on public education, local government, finance, taxation, the judiciary, the legislature, and economic development among others.

Ultimately, the Commission will make recommendations to the General Assembly for those desired changes. The Constitution grants the General Assembly authority to propose ballot issues amending the Constitution by joint resolution supported by three-fifths of each chamber, a necessarily difficult political undertaking usually requiring bi-partisan support. But with Senate Republican control well beyond three-fifths and House Republican gains now exceeding this threshold, Commission recommendations – as with any other joint resolution – can be passed with little to no Democratic influence.

For the 2016 general elections, look for anticipated Commission recommendations on matters such as redistricting or term limits, although corresponding General Assembly activity would be much more politically measured.

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