Voters in Ohio go to the polls today for a special election that could have an impact on abortion in the state.

Issue 1 is a ballot measure that makes it harder to approve any amendment to the Buckeye State’s Constitution by raising the current requirement from a simple majority of voters to 60% of ballots cast.

Opponents charge the special election is aimed at a November referendum on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee abortion access in Ohio.

Meanwhile, a broad bipartisan coalition opposes Issue 1 for other reasons. Former Ohio governors and attorneys general of both parties have come out against the constitutional change. If passed it would reverse 111 years of state tradition that has the potential to affect future citizen-led ballot efforts.

Ohio is only one of 18 states that allow for citizen-petition amendments to the state constitution, according to The Washington Examiner. But only half of those states allow a mere 50% majority to certify an amendment.

Voters have turned out in massive numbers for the special election. During the early voting period, which ended Sunday, the number of advance ballots cast hit nearly 700,000, more than double the early vote during primary elections in 2018 and 2022, when high-profile races for U.S. Senate and governor were on the ballot.

The polls close Tuesday night at 7:30 Eastern. 

Abortion is at the epicenter of the fight, as Ohio and all other U.S. states have been given control of their own abortion policies following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last summer. Ohio’s ban on most abortions had been placed on hold under Roe and then allowed to take effect briefly after the court overturned it. Since then, it has been frozen again while a challenge alleging it violates the Ohio Constitution plays out in the judicial system. 

Out-of-state money has poured into both sides in the contest over the 60% threshold, even as both supporters and opponents say one of their main goals is to keep special interests from having more influence over state policy than average Ohioans. 

The campaign in favor of Issue 1, Protect Our Constitution, has told voters that raising the threshold will keep deep-pocketed interest groups from pushing redistricting, gun control, and minimum wage policies in Ohio. It has spent $2.5 million on advertising, according to The Columbus Dispatch

One Person One Vote, the opposition campaign, argues that raising the threshold for passing future amendments would prioritize the interests of Ohio’s increasingly conservative GOP supermajority at the statehouse over those of everyday voters. It has spent roughly $12.4 million on TV, cable, and radio advertising, The Dispatch reported. 

The pro-life group Protect Women Ohio, the campaign against the fall abortion question that will appear on the state’s ballot in November, has spent roughly $7.1 million in advertising to support Issue 1, according to the outlet.  

The proposed abortion amendment that will be voted on in November reads:

  • “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.”
  • “The State shall not directly or indirectly burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.”

The November pro-abortion amendment is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. 

“This amendment is anti-parent, it is anti-life, and it is far too extreme,” Beth Vanderkooi, executive director for Greater Columbus Right to Life told CBN News in May.

Today’s vote on State Issue 1 needs a simple majority to pass and would take effect immediately. This means the November ballot measure aimed at enshrining abortion access in the Ohio Constitution would need 60% voter approval. 

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