Ohio Board of Elections Sued for Approving Proposed Abortion Rights Constitutional Amendment

A new lawsuit alleges that the Ohio Board of Elections made the wrong choice when it approved the legality of a constitutional amendment proposal to address abortion.

In a lawsuit filed this week in the Ohio Supreme Court, Cincinnati attorney Kurt Hartman is asking the court to require the Electoral Commission to reverse their March 13 decision in which they said the proposed ballot wording to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution is trying to make a change. only in one constitutional question.

The lawsuit also requires the State Board of Elections to “determine that the aforementioned initiative petition contains more than one proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution”, split the petition into separate initiatives, and certify them with the Ohio Attorney General.

To prove separate issues, the lawsuit cites the de-legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade, which described abortion as “inherently distinct” from other personal rights. Because abortion is “inherently different”, the parties to the lawsuit argue that it is a different matter than “one’s own reproductive decisions” which are part of an electoral initiative, therefore “does not and cannot refer to one common object or purpose” .

A footnote to the lawsuit acknowledges that proponents of the electoral initiative “to date have not provided any explanation for the difference between the decision regarding ‘maintaining one’s own pregnancy’ and the decision regarding ‘abortion’.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost briefed the council on the initiative and certified the amendment proposal in a separate process. In his letter confirming that the proposal could be put on the voting board, Yost made his own comments on the matter.

“I cannot base my decision on the public policy wisdom or stupidity of the proposed amendment,” Yost wrote in his letter proposing the amendment.

The lawsuit now forces the state, Yost in particular, to defend the election commission’s decision, despite any personal feelings he may have on the initiative itself.

The board has not made any decisions on the merits of the issue, although State Senator Teresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, spoke out against the issue during a board meeting, saying she was “horrified at the thought of this amendment.” ”

Hartman represents Margaret DeBlaise and John Giroux, members of the Cincinnati Right to Life movement. Giroud spoke at a meeting of the Ohio State Election Commission.

“If it’s about one issue, this amendment is about abortion, and that’s clear and simple,” Giroud told the board. “They want to push abortion into our state constitution.”

In the lawsuit, Hartman claims there was “absolutely no discussion or argument” among the board members, other than Gavarone’s comments.

The parties contesting the decision contend that the election commission’s actions, or lack thereof, “represent an abuse of discretion and/or act in clear disregard for applicable legal provisions.”

The Ohio Supreme Court has not yet decided whether they will accept the lawsuit.

Abortion rights groups need to collect signatures on July 5 to put the petition on the November ballot. That deadline could also be overshadowed by a special election in August, when Senate President Matt Huffman expressed interest in putting a measure on the ballot this month to increase the threshold required for constitutional amendments, changing it to 50%. plus one vote. 60%.

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