Ohio Issue 1 is the 270th proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution since the 1912 constitutional convention

On Aug. 8, voters in Ohio will decide Issue 1, the 270th proposed amendment to the state’s constitution since the 1912 constitutional convention. Voters approved 161 (59.85%) and rejected 108 (40.15%) of the proposed constitutional amendments from 1912 to 2022. 

Want to learn more about Ohio Issue 1? Check out Ballotpedia’s page on the constitutional amendment, and our previous articles on the upcoming vote:

On Monday, we’ll publish an article explaining how Issue 1 fits into the broader ballot measure legislation landscape this year.

In Ohio, constitutional amendments can be proposed in three ways:

  • First, the General Assembly can propose amendments, which require voter ratification. A 60% vote in each legislative chamber is required. These amendments are known as legislatively referred constitutional amendments. Ohio Issue 1 originated in the General Assembly.
  • Second, citizens can collect signatures to propose constitutional amendments to voters. These are called initiated constitutional amendments.
  • Third, voters can approve a constitutional convention question, which initiates a state constitutional convention. Delegates have the power to propose constitutional amendments to voters. The last constitutional convention in Ohio was in 1912.

The decade with the most constitutional amendments from 1910 to 2023 was the 1910s, when there were 63 constitutional amendments on the ballot. The Constitutional Convention of 1912 was responsible for 42 of these amendments, the Legislature referred seven to the ballot, and citizens petitioned 14 to the ballot. After the 1910s, the decade with the most amendments was the 1970s, with 53 proposed constitutional changes. The decade with the least amendments, excluding the 2020s (as we’re just three years in), was the 1940s, when nine amendments were on the ballot – seven from the General Assembly and two that were citizen-initiated.

Comparison of legislative, initiated, and convention constitutional amendments in Ohio

Most of the constitutional amendments during this 110-year period originated in the Ohio General Assembly. Legislators referred 156 constitutional changes to the ballot—that’s about 1.5 amendments per year and 57.99% of the total number of proposed amendments. Voters have favored legislatively referred constitutional amendments, like Issue 1, at a higher rate than citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. Voters approved 108 (69.23%) and rejected 48 (30.77%) legislatively referred constitutional amendments. The average vote for these 156 constitutional amendments was 56.34% to 43.66%.

Citizens gained the power to initiate constitutional amendments in 1912, when voters approved a convention-referred constitutional amendment. That amendment received 57.47% of the vote. The signature requirement and vote threshold for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments in Ohio are the same as those enacted in 1912.

From 1912 to 2022, voters decided on 71 initiated constitutional amendments, approving 19 (26.76%) and rejecting 52 (73.24%). Less than one —0.65—initiated constitutional amendment appeared on a ballot each year on average. The average vote on an initiated amendment was 42.79% to 57.21%.

As 156 amendments were legislative referrals and 71 were citizen initiatives, 42 constitutional amendments originated somewhere else—the Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1912. Delegates debated 340 proposals over several months, referring 42 to the ballot. Voters approved 34 (80.95%) and defeated eight (19.05%).

Amendments that passed with less than 60% from 1912 to 2022

Should voters approve Ohio Issue 1 on Aug. 8, constitutional amendments, no matter their origin, would require a 60% vote to be approved. From 1912 to 2022, 69 of the 161 voter-approved constitutional amendments received between 50% and 60% of the vote; therefore, under a 60% vote threshold, 92 (34.20%) of 269 constitutional amendments would have been approved. Here are some of the 69 constitutional amendments:

  • Closest to 60%: In 1912, a constitutional amendment provided that state and local civil service appointments and promotions must be based on merit, fitness, and competitive examinations. The amendment received 59.99% of the vote.
  • Narrowest approval: In 1961, an amendment to extend the age limits for serving in the state militia from 18-45 to 17-67 received 50.06% of the vote.
  • Most recent: In 2015, Issue 2—an amendment designed to prevent constitutional changes that create monopolies, oligopolies, or cartels— received 51.33% of the vote.
  • Initiative process: In 1912, voters passed an amendment establishing the initiative and referendum process. The amendment received 57.47% of the vote.
  • Alcohol prohibition: Voters passed an amendment banning alcohol sales in 1918. The amendment received 51.41% of the vote.

Ballotpedia has published a list of the 69 constitutional amendments from 1912 to 2022 that received between 50% and 60% here.

History of constitutional amendments to change the initiative process in Ohio

Issue 1 would change the laws governing citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. It’s not the first amendment designed to change the process. Voters approved an amendment for initiative and referendum in 1912. In 1915—three years after the initiative process began in Ohio—an organization called the Constitutional Stability League petitioned an initiated constitutional amendment to prohibit the submission of any constitutional amendment that had been rejected more than once, unless six years had passed since the last rejection. Former President William Taft (R), who was from Ohio, endorsed the measure. Voters rejected the initiative, with 53.61% voting ‘No’.

There have been nine constitutional amendments before voters to change the initiative process in Ohio. Voters approved five and rejected four, including the measure in 1915.

Before 2008, the voter-approved changes were about publishing amendments in newspapers and the Ohio Ballot Board. In 2008, voters approved Issue 1, which changed the signature deadline for initiatives from 90 days before the election to 125 days before the election. In 2015, voters approved Issue 2, limiting the use of citizen-initiated ballot measures to grant monopolies, oligopolies, or cartels—a response to a marijuana legalization initiative to grant exclusive commercial growing rights to 10 facilities.

Two of the rejected measures—on the ballot in 1939 and 1976—would have replaced Ohio’s signature requirements based on a percentage of votes with flat rates. Instead of requiring a number of votes equal to 10% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election for initiated amendments, the 1976 measure would have required 250,000 signatures, for example.

Ohio Issue 1 would make three changes to the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment process. On Aug. 8, voters will be asked for the first time whether they support increasing the signature distribution requirement for initiated amendments, requiring a supermajority vote for constitutional amendments, and eliminating the signature cure period for initiated amendments.

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