A constitutional amendment on bail changes headed to Ohio ballot

On June 1, the Ohio State Senate voted to place a constitutional amendment regarding bail changes on the general election ballot this November. The Senate voted 25-7 for the amendment after it passed the House on May 25, with a vote of 63-33.

The measure, if passed, would change bail policy in Ohio, specifically by requiring courts to weigh certain factors when setting bail amounts and conditions.

The measure would add this language to the Ohio Constitution regarding bail: “When determining the amount of bail, the court shall consider public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, and a person’s criminal record, the likelihood a person will return to court, and any other factor the general assembly may prescribe.”

To amend the constitution in Ohio, a 60 percent vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session is required. After the amendment passes both chambers, it goes to the voters for approval.

The Senate voted down party lines, with the Senate Republicans supporting the amendment and Senate Democrats opposing the amendment. Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-2) stated that “Ohioans care about public safety, and I have no doubt that they will overwhelmingly support this amendment.”

State Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-9) spoke in opposition to the amendment. “Good prosecutors in Ohio already know how to keep dangerous suspects in jail pending trial,” he stated, “They request a detention hearing and present evidence about the risk to public safety. This ensures that before denying a person who is still considered innocent their freedom, due process rights must be respected and enforced. A judge can also decide to hold a defendant without bail.”

Ohio voters will vote on this amendment, along with another, on the November 8 ballot this year. This is the second constitutional amendment placed on the Ohio general election ballot. Currently, there are two total measures on the ballot. The other measure, if passed, would amend the Ohio constitution to prohibit noncitizens from voting in local and statewide elections.

Since 1985, a total of 26 legislatively referred constitutional amendments have been approved by voters in Ohio, and four amendments have been defeated.

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