Ohio Issue 1 is the first constitutional amendment on the state’s ballot in August since 1926

In Ohio, voters will decide on Issue 1 at a special election on Aug. 8, 2023. It’s been 97 years since a state ballot measure was decided in August in Ohio. In 1926, voters addressed one constitutional amendment, which was rejected 39.99% to 60.01%. 

Let’s take a look back at the last August statewide ballot measure in Ohio.

Votes totaled 587,055 on the constitutional amendment, which appeared before voters on Aug. 10, 1926. According to The Coshocton Tribune, there were about 3.4 million eligible voters in Ohio in 1926, meaning turnout on the constitutional amendment was around 17.05%. That’s 91.91% of the turnout at the last election date in August—Aug. 2, 2022—in which 638,708 people, or 8.01% of registered voters, cast ballots in state legislative primaries.

The 1926 constitutional amendment addressed tax assessments on properties benefiting from a public improvement project. Typically, this is known as a special assessment tax. The amendment would have amended Section 11 of Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution. 

As voters rejected the amendment, the constitution remained unaltered. In 2023, Section 11 of Article XVIII remains the same as in Aug. 1926. Section 11 provides that a local government can enact an assessment on properties benefiting from a public improvement project and that the maximum amount the government can assess against the properties is half (50%) of the project’s costs. The proposed amendment would have allowed local governments to assess up to 100% of a project’s costs against the properties benefitting from the improvement project.

The Coshocton Tribune advocated for the amendment in 1926, with one journalist writing, “This amendment is really an approach to justice in taxation in that it relieves hundreds, perhaps thousands of taxpayers from being assessed for improvements which in no way benefit them, but which do benefit those whose property is increased in value solely thru the improvement and which is accordingly able to bear the cost.” The Akron Beacon Journal published an article opposing the amendment, which said, “The fact is that in spite of the soft and appealing arguments which are used in behalf of this amendment, the people have guessed its meaning. It is a scheme to abolish all existing tax limitations and debt limits and give the spenders a free hand in collecting money for their extravagant projects.”

Section 11 of Article XVIII was ratified on Sept. 3, 1912, when voters approved a convention-referred constitutional amendment related to municipal home rule and local government powers.

Ohio Issue 1, set for a vote on Aug. 8, 2023, addresses a different topic—the ballot initiative process and constitutional amendments. Issue 1 would (a) increase the voter approval threshold for new constitutional amendments to 60%; (b) require citizen-initiated constitutional amendment campaigns to collect signatures from each of the state’s 88 counties, an increase from half (44) of the counties; and (c) eliminate the cure period of 10 days for campaigns to gather additional signatures for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments when the original submission did not have enough valid signatures.

On July 21, Cleveland.com reported that early voting turnout on Issue 1 was five times ahead of last year’s Aug. 2 election at this point. Turnout was 8.01% for that election. Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said, “It’s been busy. It’s been an active week of voting, probably more than we had anticipated if we’re being honest.”

Additional reading:

Ohio Issue 1, 60% Vote Requirement to Approve Constitutional Amendments Measure (2023)